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Should Women Get Membership at Augusta? Blaze Writers Weigh In and You Can Take The Poll

"As has been the case... all issues of membership have been subject to the private deliberations of the membership."

One of the most revered golf tournaments of the year tees off this Thursday in Augusta, Georgia as the 2012 Masters starts its four-round battle for the coveted "Green Jacket." (To the uninitiated, the winner of the Masters earns a huge check, but also gets a green blazer signifying their lifetime membership in the Augusta National Golf Club.)

While much of the attention will be focused on the anticipated battle between the resurgent Tiger Woods, the perennial favorite Phil Mickelson, and the newly crowned #1 player in the world, Rory McIroy, the real battle continues off the golf course. We are referring, of course, to the fight to have Augusta National accept female members.

Augusta National is a male-only, private club, and the members are the sole arbiters of who is allowed to join its ranks. That situation has bothered some women and women's groups for years. In fact, back in 2003 the National Council of Women's Organizations pushed to have Augusta change its by-laws and start accepting/inviting female members. The group's chairwoman, Martha Burk, lead a protest outside the club. Nothing has changed -- r has it?

IBM is one of the key sponsors of the Masters, and they have been so for ten years. The computer company also has a new CEO who also happens to be a golfer and a woman. Here name is Virginia Rometty, and she became the CEO of IBM in January, but has she been invited to join Augusta National? The Washington Post reports that the last four CEOs of IBM have.

At the tournament press conference, Augusta's chairman Billy Payne was asked several times about any changes to the club's men-only membership policy and he answered it in typically cryptic Augusta fashion:

"One, we don't talk about our private deliberations. Number two, we especially don't talk about it when a named candidate is a part of the question."

Perhaps that second part of Payne's answer may have started the swirling rumor that Rometty has already been granted membership to the club. USA Today's Christine Brennan has tossed out that possibility. But Rometty is not commenting and neither is IBM.

We spoke with our own CEO, Betsy Morgan about the subject. When asked how she felt about Augusta's famous ban on female members and the public pressure to change their rules, Ms. Morgan answered:

"I don't have any issue with anyone trying to change the rules or petitioning to change the rules. But, I agree with the club on their right to make their decisions."

For the record, Betsy Morgan is not now nor has she ever been a golfer.

So we decided to ask the Blaze editorial staff: Should Augusta National be forced to accept/consider female members?  Several have responded.

Mytheos Holt:

Absolutely not. Private sporting events are no business of the government, and if people want to punish an event for being too sexist, they can always decline to pay attention, depriving that event of its prestige. Moreover, when a female golfer comes along who is so spectacularly gifted that refusing to admit her would be a travesty, love of the sport will likely take precedence over whatever parochial traditions are involved.

Becket Adams:

Only if:

a) The View agrees to replace Joy Behar with Rush Limbaugh as a full-time host.

b) I'm allowed admittance to the Belizean Grove. (A little-known, women-only group that once claimed Justice Sonia Sotomayor as a member)

c) Wellesley college goes co-ed.


Liz Klimas:

No, I don't think they should be forced to accept female members. There is a fine line, I know, but when it comes to private, membership clubs, I don't see a problem with this. If it is a private club, they should be allowed to limit acceptance based on certain criteria, such as gender. I realize this sentiment could open the door for discrimination based on race as well, but I think there is a difference between having male-only or female-only clubs. I think women want to be let in on some of these things to, 'scuse the pun, stick it to the man.

Tiffany Gabbay:

I say keep it all male! I like tradition and think it's ok for boy scouts to be boy scouts and girl scouts to be girls scouts and so on.  That said, my own niece lobbied to play varsity football and made it!

Erica Ritz:

If previous IBM CEO's were given membership, I think the current one should have the same option despite her gender.  She can make her choice.

However, that doesn't mean the club should be forced to change its policies for every woman.  It's a private organization, and can make its own rules.

Christopher Santarelli:

Barred membership: yes

Barred from the event: yes

Would it be tasteless and would the public have the right to look down on them for it: yes

As long as it does not directly hurt another's liberty, govt can't be the thought police for individuals or institutions. However, if I worked for Augusta's PR, rules can be broken, exceptions can be made.

Madeleine Morgenstern:

A private club absolutely has the right to make its own decisions, but let's be real here: Payne ripped Tiger Woods after his sex scandal two years ago for failing to "live up to the expectations as a role model" for our children and grandchildren. Are we really saying there's no inherent conflict in blasting Woods as a role model while those same children grow up in a world where women are actively and unapologetically blocked from Payne's organization?

Where do you stand on this highly charged topic?  Take our Blaze poll and let us know:


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