Augusta National Golf Club formerly introduced itself to 2012 Monday when it announced that it admitted it first women members, Condoleezza Rice of Stanford and Darla Moore of Lake City. S.C.
The club, which hosts the Masters, was going to do this. It had to. Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, holds an annual state of the Masters address. Four months ago he decried golf's declining numbers. Fewer people are playing. Payne said the sport needed to grow, and his organization needed to help lead the cause.
Excluding half the population doesn't help.
As a private club, Augusta is entitled to conduct business in any fashion it chooses. There's a charm about the way they do it. Almost everybody else capitulates to the prevailing trends. Augusta National moves at its pace, and if you want to spend time there, you will, too.
Other sports worry about offering the biggest scoreboard, the most wired stadium and the most expensive sandwiches.
There at the front of Augusta National, for everybody to see, is a huge stately scoreboard operated manually; you see the men on ladders behind it, adding the latest numbers. That's Augusta speed. The rest of us go through life with a cell phone implanted in our ears. Get caught with one at Augusta National and it will be confiscated. You can buy a sandwhich there for about what you'd pay to make it.
The club is aware, of course, that there is life beyond the azaleas. Women were not put on the planet to be spectators, as the U.S. team's superb work in the London Olympics attests.
Pushing Augusta National to change undoubtedly set the cause back. Payne and company aren't going to be told what to do. They do not want to capitulate and they do not want to look as if they capitulated.
Admitting women members had to be their idea.
It was an idea they had no choice but to make.