No cartwheels for Augusta National for admitting women
Guest columnist Stephanie Wei says inviting two wealthy, conservative Southern women with strong ties to the old-boys network isn't going to tear down the game's stereotype of exclusion.
Special to The Seattle Times
IT'S about time. No, it's past due.
After nearly 80 years of excluding women as members, the Augusta National Golf Club announced on Monday that it was tearing down the gender wall. The famously all-male club extended invitations to two women: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore.
Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne called the news a "joyous occasion" and described the announcement as a "significant and positive time in our club's history."
Break out the moonshine and cigars.
I thought I'd be a lot more excited and doing cartwheels across the living room. Instead, I felt annoyed, then angry. It's hard to celebrate progress when the due date expired decades ago. Shall we date it to Title IX's passage 40 years ago? Hell, yes.
Truth? In the real world, Augusta's news made golf look more backward than ever.The so-called breakthrough is even more shallow given how far the rest of society has come over the same number of years.
I'm not trying to take away from it because I know many have spent years and decades championing the cause. That's gratifying. But every woman -- person -- has to know that it's beyond preposterous that it took so long. This is no celebration.
Inviting two wealthy, conservative Southern women with strong ties to the old-boys network isn't going to tear down the game's stereotype of exclusion.
As my (mostly male) colleagues in the industry see it, Augusta's "joyous occasion" will erase all those big, bad golf stereotypes overnight. Next thing we know women will be signing up for lessons in droves.
Women aren't getting the sudden urge to take up golf because of the club's move. Maybe it will create slightly more interest from an inconsequential number of women already playing the game. Maybe the next time your husband, boyfriend or dad invites you to the driving range, you'll consider it.
Obvious fact: The majority of golf courses welcome women. Many always have. Manufacturers have been making women's equipment for decades. Golf-apparel companies have been growing and designing more youthful and fashionable threads.
I grew up in Bellevue. My parents introduced me to golf when I was 11. I first learned at a local public course, as many do. I was the only girl, but playing with the guys undoubtedly helped me improve more quickly, swing harder and become more competitive.
I played on the boy's golf team my freshman year in high school because we didn't have a girl's team. The guys on my team, along with the ones from the opposing schools, treated me as an equal and with the utmost respect. Because I usually kicked their butts.
At the same time, my family joined a private country club in Bellevue. Oddly, the club and members were strangely anti-junior golfers. But at no point were barriers put in my path a result of me being female, to my recollection.
I started playing in tournaments in the local, regional and state circuits when I was 13 and eventually progressed to the national circuit over the next few years.
Golf opened doors for me that I would never have imagined -- a ticket to Yale University, where I played on the women's golf team for three years, until I was sidelined by an injury my senior year.
So good on, Augusta, for letting women in, at last. They're not correcting a problem that hasn't already been fixed by most forward-thinking humans everywhere outside of Georgia. But if there's a win here for women, it's in bashing down this final door, and reminding us that there's no room for sexism in sports -- or society for that matter.
Let's tee it up. I've got honors.
Stephanie Wei is a freelance writer/reporter and shares a different perspective in her coverage of the PGA Tour at weiunderpar.com. She's also a contributor for Sports Illustrated Golf+.