COLUMN: Augusta National Gold Club: hole in one or air shot?
Sports has remained fairly equal over the past few decades when it comes to gender. There are male and female teams in basketball and soccer and women play softball, while men play baseball.
It all seems impartial when laid out on paper, and the sports community has made strides toward equality. The recent induction of two highly influential women into the previously all-male Augusta National Golf Club prompts many to question whether the induction was genuine or a move for good publicity.
If men and women were truly treated equally in sports, then women would have the option to play football or baseball and someday be drafted by the New York Giants or the Oakland A’s. Of course, there are obvious risks if men and women are playing on the same teams, but shouldn’t we have that option?
Playing softball sounds like a better choice for me, but it would be nice to know I had the option to play on a baseball team with a bunch of men.
This quasi-segregation among men and women in the sports world was spotlighted by Martha Burk, a women’s rights advocate, when she challenged the Augusta National Golf Club’s policy that prohibited female members.
The Augusta National Golf Club was founded in 1932 and has been the home of the Masters Tournament since 1934. In the club’s 80 years, it had yet to induct any female members until last month when Augusta National Golf Club announced that Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. secretary of state, and Darla Moore, vice president of Rainwater Inc., would be permitted to don the golf club's exclusive green jackets. Both women will be presented to the other members of the club when it opens for the season this October.
With the club's opening mere weeks away, is the induction of these two highly influential women a genuine attempt to end 80 years of exclusion or a shot at good publicity in time for the season‘s opening?
The integration of women into predominately male sports goes as far back as the 1970s with the First National Archery Championship, in which 20 women participated. Women have been allowed into golf clubs since 1867 at St Andrews in Scotland. Why, then, is one of the most prestigious golf club so late in allowing female members?
My guess is that it is simply because Augusta National Golf Club did not want to include women. At a golf club that is run by men for men, there is no need to consider the unjust exclusion of the opposite sex. That was true, until Burk and her women’s advocacy group decided someone should start considering it. Sadly, Burk’s efforts were initially criticized. The public paid attention to the segregated golf club only after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney released a statement last April, on behalf of President Obama, maintaining women should be allowed into the club.
With the enduring scrutiny of Augusta National Golf Club, it seems obvious why the club would offer membership to Rice and Moore now. What better way to start the season than with the very public admittance of two well-known women?
I wish I could offer a congratulations to Augusta National Golf Club for making strides in the golf community by its action, but I cannot. All eyes will certainly be on the club in the future, though, to see if any other female members are invited. Only then we will know if it truly wanted to break down sexist barriers or if the club just wanted to give its reputation a boost in time for the new season.
As of right now, it would seem that Augusta National Golf Club has made an air shot when it comes to women’s rights.
Sarah Sullivan is an English writing junior.