Except, of course, the green jackets have no plans of doing any of that. In his annual pre-Masters press conference, Payne refused to give a position on belly putters, declined to take a stand on smoking on the golf course, and wouldn’t even discuss details of Augusta National’s new corporate party complex.
And if you think a delegation from Augusta is going to travel to Scotland to urge members at all-male Muirfield — host of this year’s British Open — to also enter the modern world and accept women, well, think again.
“I think they should do what they want to do, and I would not interject the way I feel on the issue,” Payne said.
More like a flashlight than a beacon, but that’s OK. Golf fans, for the most part, don’t care who wears the green jackets, or who sets the rules. They just want to watch Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson battle it out on the back nine on Sunday in the major that means the most.
Augusta National handled the issue of women members the way it wanted to, and if it took them longer than it should, well, the green jackets aren’t entirely to blame. Those playing in the Masters never dared — or cared — to push the issue, and there was certainly no outcry among golf fans lucky enough to wander around Amen Corner.
Was it wrong to exclude half the population because of gender? Yes, but the idea that Augusta National is some sort of democracy should have been put to rest about the time Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts built the place during the Great Depression.
Did it qualify as one of the pressing social issues of our time? No, because pretty much the entire other half of the population that is not female had no chance of becoming members, either.
Inside the gates they can be heavy handed, overbearing and simply wrong on many issues. It’s a different world, one we’re privileged to be invited to visit only one week a year — and only as long as we toe the company line.
They do have plenty of things to be proud of over the years. Admitting a few token women isn’t one of them.