Today's announcement that Augusta National Golf Club has finally named its first female members is long overdue. However, we shouldn't let the club's questionable past overshadow the opportunity to celebrate today's events.
Understanding life at a private country club may be hard to grasp for those who haven't either worked at or been a member of a club. As many of my readers are aware, I had the privilege of the former for more than 10 years. While not of the same caliber as Augusta National, I still had a front-row seat of what it meant to be part of an exclusive club and the politics associated with membership policies.
Issues of racism, classism, and especially sexism ran rampant throughout the club I caddied and worked at in Chicagoland. Men and women were simply treated differently, down to the quarantined areas of the clubhouse where women could not visit. Even as a teen I understood that any type of discrimination was wrong. But rules simply seemed to change while on the country club's property. I could not understand why then, and I cannot understand why now.
Augusta National's decision today to allow two extremely wealthy females into the He-man Woman Haters Club was by no means done as a publicity stunt (as TheGolfNewsNet.com's Ryan Ballengee so eloquently points out). It was a collaborative decision spearheaded by Augusta Chairman Billy Payne, and he should be lauded for making it happen.
Today's announcement does not wipe out a long history of discrimination at Augusta; however, today's decision should also not be judged by the wrongs of the club's predecessors from years past.
As with any sport, golf has a lot of growing up to do. In the case of Augusta National, for example, old white men comprised the membership and controlled the rules that governed that membership for generations. The only way a black man would be allowed to step onto the course 30 years ago was if he were employed as a caddy. Luckily times have changed since then, as Augusta named its first black member in 1990.
But women were still shunned for decades leading up to today's announcement. Some may say that the sins of the club's history cannot be forgiven; I say those people are choosing to live in the past and have no interest in moving forward.
Yes, 80 years of discrimination related to playing a game is ridiculous. There is no intelligent reason why people of any color, creed or gender shouldn't be allowed to hit a stupid white ball around a stretch of land with a stupid crooked stick. The basis behind country club membership rules are as chauvinistic and meat-headed as those who choose to blindly enforce the rules year after year. But the fact remains that any country club can still legally choose who they will -- or will not -- allow into its membership.
Augusta National did not have to change its membership requirements. They would have still made a profit every year at The Masters, and males and females alike would continue to buy tickets to visit the course.
That is exactly why today's announcement to welcome two female members is so impressive, and why you should applaud progress on one of the sport's most celebrated venues.
Augusta National is moving forward, and everyone else should, too.