Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Dear Ladies,
Martha Burk who
got death threats
          How have you allowed America’s Augusta National Golf Club to continue treating you as nobodies for just about all of its 86 year existence?
          Notorious for its racial prejudice and sexist views it has been changing at a snails pace that is the antithesis of the current century. This is particularly appalling considering that its membership includes some of the richest men in the world like Microsoft’s Bill Gates.   
          Home of The Masters that has just been played this championship began life as the August National Invitation Tournament. Even its founders, amateur champion Bobby Jones and banker Clifford Roberts had misgivings about giving the tournament its current name.
          It had hardly started when Roberts proposed the change. Jones felt this was too presumptuous, but five years later Roberts got his way.
          Other words for presumptuous are arrogant, egotistical, insolent and cocksure and the club’s male members that have been running it have certainly lived up to these unenviable characteristics.
          Ironically Tiger Woods, who has just won his fifth Master’s title, would never have been allowed to hit a single shot on the course in its earlier years. As an African American he would only have qualified to have been a caddie. Up to 1983 competitors were compelled to use an Augusta Club caddie and these were traditionally all African American.
          In 1975 one of the club’s worst prejudices began to crumble when Lee Elder became the first African American to be invited to compete in the championship.
          But the club still had a women problem: How to go on keeping them out. With millionaires, and billionaires as members their mothers, wives and other female members of their families were evidently too subservient to their Masters to call them out for their blatant sexism at Augusta. 
          It was left to Martha Burk, a syndicated columnist and women’s rights activist to stir things up among the chauvinist pigs in their cosy Augusta pigsty where some 15% of members are CEO’s of massive corporations. Golf was incidental in this fight. It was about power.
          In 2002 she clashed with the then Chairman William “Hootie” Johnson. He responded by telling the world unashamedly that Augusta was a “single gender” club. He then had the gall to liken it to the Boy Scouts or the Girl Guides.
          She failed in her initial attempt to get the club to accept women as members, when she was refused a permit to protest at the gates during the 2003 Masters.
          Her luck changed later, however. Two gender discrimination law suites brought by her organisation, The Women on Wall Street Project, against companies associated with Augusta resulted in a $79-million settlement.
            Presumably if you treat women badly at your club you more than likely do the same in your company.
Condoleezza Rice
          Burk had to contend with death threats and being called all kinds of names like man hater and lesbian. This did not deter her. She won. Her efforts evidently embarrassed the Augusta Board of Directors into changing their admission policy on women. Grudgingly in 2012 they invited Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State in the Bush administration and Darla Moore, the former president of the private investment firm Rainwater Inc that was founded by her husband Richard, to become members.
          They were more or less forced to invite “Ginni” Rometty to become a member after she became Chief Executive of IBM, one of the main sponsors of The Masters.
The men at the top of this stuffy 300 member club could then congratulate themselves on how well they treated women. After all what more could anybody ask for now that they had three female members?
          Yet the Masters still did little to encourage woman once things had settle down after Burk’s attack.
          For some reason or other the current Chairman Fred Ridley announced a pathetic sop to them that did nothing to eliminate the Club’s clear female prejudice.
          The Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championships would be held just before this year’s Masters. This he claimed was to “inspire greater interest and participation in the women’s game.”
          It fell rather flat when he added that the Club was not contemplating holding a tournament for women similar to The Masters.
          The winner of this year’s event received $2-million for the first time. But the way things are no women will ever win any money at Augusta. That would be going too far in this male reserve.
          It is particularly deplorable that so many leaders of industry should have thought it was okay to prevent people from playing just because they had the wrong skin colour and that women could not be members for being…. women.
          These men proved that in spite of their lofty positions they were not nearly responsible enough to be in a so called “Land of the free.” And I can’t think it can be much fun being one of so few women among all those chauvinist pigs. It’s mucky in there.
P.S. One of the Club strange idiosyncrasies involves the green jacket that is presented to every Masters winner. They are tailor made for each winner. Then they are only allowed to keep it for a year before returning it to the club for safe keeping in a special green jacket store room. It seems they can’t trust their winners to look after them on a permanent basis. Nothing could be more terrible than if one got into the wrong hands and a tramp was seen rummaging through rubbish on the side of a road while wearing one of those hallowed garments.


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