PGA Tour Confidential: Augusta National admits two female members

PGA Tour Confidential: Augusta National admits two female members

On Monday Augusta National chairman Billy Payne announced that the club will admit two female members.
David Cannon / Getty Images

We convened a special edition of our weekly roundtable to discuss the news that Augusta National has admitted two female members, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Sum up your reaction to the news that Augusta National now has two female members.

David Dusek, deputy editor, I never doubted that Billy Payne wanted to let women become members at Augusta National; he and the club just needed to work out how they could do it without looking like they were being forced to yield to outside pressure.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: I'm happy to receive the news, but I remain bewildered that the club didn't lance this boil more than a year ago, before the issue became news again.

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Right, John. Augusta blew it last spring when Ginny Rometty took over as CEO at IBM, a position that traditionally comes with a green jacket, and the club failed to act. Then again, Augusta blew it for about 80 years. But at least now it's finally over.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Congratulations to Augusta National for joining the 20th century. Better late than never!

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Doing the right thing is obviously long overdue, and I'm glad the club finally took the first step with this symbolic gesture. But there is still a long way to go in terms of breaking down golf's exclusionary and elitist reputation. Hopefully this will have a meaningful impact on the game, but I still think it's going to take years.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I was pretty sure Billy Payne was too smart and too much of a diplomat to let this issue continue to taint the Masters, but I was beginning to wonder what was taking him so long. Now that it's done, it seems so easy, so obvious.

Hanger: Right. My first thought was, finally. Payne seemed genuinely flustered with the harsh questioning this year, and I wonder if behind closed doors that led him to push for the change. The issue was clearly not going away, so they really didn't have much of a choice.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I'm happy the club did the right thing so we can put all of this unpleasantness behind us.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: This is a good day for golf. ANGC's stance was hurting the game by playing into all the elitist, sexist, discriminatory stereotypes that golf has fought forever. Now we can move on. I agree that this decision was way too long in the making. I could never understand how a defacto governing body like ANGC could be so blind to the damage it was causing.

Connell Barrett, editor-at-large, Golf Magazine: About dang time. I was always amazed that a club so concerned with appearances ("no running, patrons!") continued exclusionary policies that made it look so bad.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It's about time.

Mick Rouse, contributor: Welcome out of the dark ages, Augusta National. See, it's not so bad. Now, how long until they allow another female to join the ranks? It's great to quell the criticism, but it's laughable if Payne believes having two women on his roster for the next 10 years is truly progress.

Alan Bastable, senior editor, Golf Magazine: My first thought … Poor Sergio! He bags his first PGA Tour win since '08 and gets trumped by an announcement from Augusta National. Dude can't catch a break.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: What's your reaction to the news from Augusta?

Hanger: Will this have an impact on women's participation in the game and/or their interest in the Masters as a sporting event? I don't think it will impact participation much, but I do think women who were previously turned off by the Masters might now tune in.

Shipnuck: It sends a very important message: You are welcome here.

Dusek: I agree that it sends a message, Alan, but I think this will have zero impact on TV ratings or overall interest in golf. It's one event, and although it is the greatest event on the schedule, no one is going to start playing golf because two women have now been admitted as members of Augusta National.

Shipnuck: How can you say zero? I know a lot of high-powered women in their 30s and 40s who don't play golf but were insulted and baffled by ANGC's stance. I've already heard from a few today saying, basically, Phew! If they're suddenly more open-minded about coming to the game, that's a significant step.

Dusek: Let me know when they buy clubs, book tee times and schedule lessons.

Morfit: I can't see women suddenly becoming that much more interested in golf or the Masters. That said, I can see serious businesswomen feeling more than a bit pleased. In theory, there's now just as much hobnobbing and back-slapping available to them as there is available to men.

Herre: It will take years to undo the damage. ANGC needs to reach out to women, much as it has reached out to kids by funding the First Tee. If the way today's announcement was made — publicly, transparently — is any indication, maybe we are seeing genuine change at the club. Hope so.

Rouse: Allow the women to have an event at Augusta, and then maybe we can talk about how it will impact participation/interest.

Shipnuck: Yeah, I hope Mike Whan has already called the club. Bobby Jones was a big booster of women's golf; he'd be pleased to see a prestigious LPGA event on his course.

Van Sickle: People who aren't playing golf, women who aren't playing golf, aren't going to start because of Augusta's move. Or because of the PGA of America's hilariously naive new Play Golf America commercials. People aren't playing golf because they forgot about it or hadn't thought of it. A lot of them tried it, didn't like it and moved on. I don't see anyone addressing that issue.

Hanger: I think the impact on participation will be small, but every little bit helps. As Jim and Alan have argued convincingly, this is another moment that will hopefully help the game shed its elitist/exclusionary reputation and past.

Wei: Due to my own personal experiences in the golf industry, I've grown a little skeptical about the game shedding its elitism and other backward thinking and behavior.

Dusek: For golf to lose its air of exclusivity and elitism, it needs to become more affordable and less time consuming.

Herre: In some ways, this is one of those watershed events in golf, another better-late-than-never moment. First came the 1962 court decision in California that struck down the PGA of America's whites-only clause, followed by the Shoal Creek incident in 1990, when the Tour, the USGA, the PGA and the LPGA all quickly implemented anti-discrimination membership guidelines as a condition of play. Now ANGC sees the light. Will Pine Valley be next?

Dusek: Hey, Jim, let's not get crazy now.

Wei: Pine Valley doesn't have the public presence and influence, so they can stay all-male for all I care.

Bastable: Yeah, unless the Crump Cup makes a bid to become the fifth major, hard to imagine Pine Valley caving.

Eamon Lynch, executive editor, Golf Magazine: So today Augusta National has two more wealthy Republican members than it did yesterday. If anything, this highlights the elitist and exclusionary nature of the golf world rather than combats it. But the unhappiest man in golf today: Peter Dawson, since the R&A can now lay claim to the distinction of being the most high-profile discriminatory organization in the game.

Hanger: Disagree. Don't think their political ideology has a thing to do with this issue. I don't think many people are getting blackballed from clubs because they're liberals, though certainly golfers are, by and large, a pretty conservative bunch.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Will this news affect women's participation in golf and their interest in the Masters?

Hanger: After all these years, should Martha Burk feel vindicated? And, what other women should be invited now that ice has been broken?

Shipnuck: Martha Burk rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and made her share of gaffes, but it's hard to imagine this would've happened without her dogged determination. For members, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam for sure — they can play a match against Arnie and Jack. Judy Bell, too. Heidi Ueberroth. Donna Orender.

Dusek: Annika.

Bamberger: Carol Semple Thompson.

Ritter: Oprah. That's a joke, golf fans. But I bet she'd accept.

Bastable: Snooki.

Hanger: That would certainly remove the whole "elitist" label.

Wei: Christine Brennan, who made her point with the power of the pen (or computer). Also, Michelle Wie and Yani Tseng.

Shipnuck: And long before Brennan, it was Marcia Chambers who wrote powerfully on this topic.

Van Sickle: Great comment, Alan. Marcia Chambers was an advocate for women's golf for years before Brennan jumped in on the game's highest-profile case.

Tell us what you think in the comments section below: Which other women should Augusta consider inviting?