Time, it seems, has finally caught up to Augusta National.
The famed Georgia golf club, which has steadfastly excluded female members for its storied 80-year history, joined the modern age this week when it announced that former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina business mogul Darla Moore will become the club’s first female members in October.
Augusta National chairman Billy Payne called it a “joyous occasion,” but you can bet there was much gnashing of teeth in the golf course locker room as the club’s exclusive membership came to grips with the historic decision.
After all, the private club that hosts the annual Masters golf tournament has taken great pains over the years to defend its decision to deny membership to women, with ex-chairman Hootie Johnson waging a public battle with Martha Burk, the women’s rights campaigner who pushed unsuccessfully for the club to open its doors to females.
Johnson famously responded by suggesting that one day Augusta might have female members, but “not at the point of a bayonet.”
Well, there’s no bayonet, but it appears the passage of time and the sharp realities of business have accomplished what Burk and the women’s movement could not.
The ball really started rolling this year when Virginia Rometty was named chief executive officer of IBM, the American blue-chip company whose sponsorship is vital to the Masters tournament — so much so that last four CEOs of the U.S. giant had been made members of the club.
Rometty was never made a member, but the writing clearly was on the wall for Augusta National, which now was forced to reconcile the reality of modern business with membership policies that have been derided as sexist, discriminatory and anachronistic.
While the Augusta decision represents a victory for women against the oldest of old boys’ clubs, Associated Press columnist Paul Newberry recently pointed out that the world of golf still has a long way to go if it wants to make it safely around the Amen Corner of equality.
Newberry says at least three other clubs of global renown — Muirfield (the site of the next British Open), Troon and Royal St. George’s — still “hang a men-only sign outside the clubhouse.”
As witnessed at Augusta National, it’s only a matter of time before women will be able to tee it up with the men as well.
It’s as inevitable as green jackets in April.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by editor Robert Koopmans, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, news editor Mike Cornell or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.