After years of living in the Dark Ages of sports, Augusta National Golf Club made the right decision by admitting two female members into its membership as was announced on Monday.
The move is as progressive as the club’s chairman, Billy Payne, who will now go down in history as one of the game’s most influential people. In a day and age where equality is a way of life in the United States and tolerance is a hard-and-fast rule in the scope of the socio-economic climate, it was a matter of when, not if, the home of The Masters Tournament would finally come around.
In typical Augusta-like fashion, the move was not highly publicized or anticipated. The membership is known for remaining quiet about its dealings with potential members and its selection process.
But the club couldn’t avoid the mixed yet strong reactions resounding from the court of public opinion. Wide-ranging sentiments from, the “atta-boys” to the “how-could-yous” are flooding cyberspace and stirring up all kinds of emotion.
When it comes to golf, the move is critical. Rounds in the United States are down and the golf industry is looking for players. When one of the most storied clubs in the United States is known for purposefully disallowing women onto its grounds, it’s going to have an effect on how women feel about the game. Golf needs women to play and get excited about the game. In a sport that many women already find overwhelming as is, the added barrier of having the world’s most famous golf tournament exclude much of its audience based on gender, it’s no wonder the industry has faced such an uphill battle.
The backwards thinking of the spirit of the rule is a contributing factor in the golf downturn nationwide. There are many who argue that the club has been robbed of its rights and freedoms. What those same folks fail to realize, however, is that they had the freedom to choose whether or not to make that historic leap in the first place.
And what terrific pioneers for the club — Condolleeza Rice and Darla Moore — distinguished, classy women who will do nothing but good things for the club, both from a public perception standpoint as well as internally.
I just can’t wait to see them in those green jackets come October. And what a glorious, welcome sight it will be.
Michael C. Jones is the Editor of Sports Out West. For more insight, follow him on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets