Golfing and fraternities have always gone hand-in-hand — until Augusta National Golf Club admitted its first two female members, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, on Monday.
Ever since its founding in 1933, Augusta National has been the most illustrious golfing alliance in America. Members include former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate Warren Buffett, and Microsoft forefather Bill Gates. Notwithstanding each member’s distinctive success story, almost all share the same White skin color and androgenized gender. And until recently, this club has tenaciously kept its “last of the old plantations” relic by refusing membership to minorities.
The first African American, Ron Townshend, was admitted in 1990. The former Gannett Television Group president was called the “Jackie Robinson of country-club golf” by The New York Times and a “golf nut” by club chairman Hord Hardin. Regardless of his late admittance, Townsend nonetheless ushered in a fresh, progressive era for the club. Membership has since embraced African Americans like former NFL player Lynn Swann and retired AT&T executive Ray M. Robinson.
And, finally, women are seeing invitations as well. Rice (the so-called “Warrior Princess”) and Moore (“a cross between the Terminator and Kim Basinger”) are ideal additions to the club. Just as Townsend did before them, both will pave the way for inclusion and equality. They’ll both be symbols of the changing times — even if the times changed a while ago, and Augusta National is just now catching up. “It will be a proud moment,” chairman Billy Payne declared, “when we present Condoleezza and Darla their green jacks when the club opens this fall.”
But why has that epiphany taken this long?
Historically, Augusta isn’t the only club to practice exclusivity. Yale’s Skulls and Bones society counted George W. Bush among its “bonesmen,” and didn’t invite women until 1991. San Francisco’s Bohemian Club still practices gender discrimination and urinating on trees, among other things. Colorado Springs’ El Paso Club voted to deny females membership — thereby upholding a tradition of 135 years. “We can’t decimate … to let a few women in,” squabbled Randy Kilgore, an insurance magnate and El Paso participant. “It would be the end of the club.”
Frankly, I’m not surprised with these secret, fraternal societies. Although I’m frustrated with such blunt ignorance of 21st century culture, I simply have no interest. These clubs have always focused on male bonding — so why bother? It’s not a party worth crashing. After all, we could make the same argument for The Girls Scouts: It’s an exclusive club dedicated to female bonding. Skulls and Bones, Bohemian Club, El Paso, and the Girl Scouts all have the same idea in mind. The only difference is that one urinates on trees, while another sells Thin Mints for $5 per cookie.
But Augusta National stands for something universally appealing. As a sports club, it remains dedicated to golf above all — not so much discrimination or exclusivity. Sports are about uniting and forgetting political, socioeconomic, or physical differences. The athletic world seems to hold a bright future for females with Augusta’s latest ruling and the 2012 Olympics’ feminine feats. As French Olympic coordinator Pierre de Doubertin said, “the Olympic Spirit is neither the property of one race nor of one age.”