The great debate: the firestorm over Augusta’s male-only membership policy is one of the biggest stories in the game. We present all the viewpoints—and we want to hear yours – The Masters 2003

Truth, said the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is opposed. And finally, it is accepted as self-evident by everyone (except the odd flat-earther or other cave-dwelling creature). The endless debate over Augusta National’s male-only membership policy has generated a tremendous amount of ridicule and opposition on both sides, but so far the truth has proved elusive.

It all started back in June when, after an expose in Golf For Women, Martha Burk, head of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, wrote to William (Hootie) Johnson, chairman of Augusta National, protesting the club’s lack of female members. A month later, Johnson responded with a tersely worded letter to Burk and a defiant memorandum to the public. Since then, the debate has received a staggering amount of media coverage as each new chapter has unfolded. Burk wrote to the tournament sponsors and promised picket lines at the 2003 Masters. Johnson pulled all sponsorship from the tournament. The membership roster was leaked to the press. Tiger Woods and others were urged to boycott. The New York Times killed and then reinstated two columns that disagreed with the paper’s strident editorial page, a media scandal that came to be known as “Golfgate.” Two members, former CBS chairman Thomas Wyman and new Treasury Secretary John Snow, resigned their memberships because of the issue, Wyman calling the club’s position “pigheaded.” And all the while, the talking heads talked, the pontificators pontificated, and the letters and e-mails flooded our offices.

Golfers tend to side with Hootie (or, should we say, Mr. Johnson, because oddly enough Ms. Burk’s childhood nickname also was Hootie–perhaps the only thing the two protagonists have in common). They cite First Amendment freedom of association rights, the need for single-gender organizations and the tradition and history of Augusta and the Masters. Outside golf, opinion is more divided, with probably a little more than half of the public at large tending to support Burk’s cause, claiming gender discrimination by what is an exclusive club of America’s masters of the universe, one that they say gives up its privacy rights by being a very public, profitable organization.

Last month we published Part 1 of the great debate with a piece entitled “The Case for All-Male Golf Clubs,” by David Owen. This is Part 2. Read all the opinions, decide for yourself, and then let us know by going to The truth can’t be far away. Can it?

A rock meets a hard place

By Camille Paglia

TWO STUBBORNLY insular groups faced off in the clash between Augusta National Golf Club and the National Council of Women’s Organizations, each with its rigid preconceptions and an unassailable faith in its own moral superiority. Augusta believes it is preserving the nobility of civilized values, based on the ideal Arcadian world of golf, whose sculpted, pocket landscapes are a symbolic fusion of nature and culture. Augusta sees itself as the guardian of tradition and ceremony, the bastion of an aristocratic brotherhood of courtly gentlemen, in whose chivalry women are mere ornaments, treasured but peripheral.

The dragon ladies of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, on the other hand, see themselves as secular saints divinely inspired to break through the lethargy and limitations of the past. Their eyes are fixed on a distant mirage–the new paradise of social utopia. In their Manichaean dualism of light versus darkness, history is a tear-stained melodrama of male tyranny and female victimization. Waspishly earnest, they define life as all duty and no pleasure. Though they pose as rebels, they are smooth backstage operators in Washington’s bureaucratic establishment.

Martha Burk, the Council’s chair, performed a public service by raising the issue of women being barred from membership at Augusta National–a fact that came as a great surprise to most people, including me. However, her automatic archfeminist tactic of intimidation–humorless, peremptory, patronizing–made negotiation or compromise impossible. Burk had the right and even obligation to protest, but Augusta National has a right in this democracy to determine membership in a private club, whatever its ancillary sponsorships. As a libertarian Democrat, I oppose creeping encroachments on privacy and detest intrusive social engineering that reduces all human relationships to politics.

Unfortunately, Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson acquitted himself poorly in response to Burk’s provocation. His snorting, bridling, contemptuous counterattack squandered potential public support by effectively proving just what Burk had implied–that Augusta’s gender policy is based on snobbery and misogyny, on an implicit division between higher and lower orders of beings. Johnson’s inability to articulate Augusta’s philosophy or even to make gracious, pro forma gestures toward larger social principles made the club look antediluvian. It’s been over 30 years since the pitched battles to keep women out of all-male sanctuaries such as Ivy League colleges or clubs like Mory’s, Yale’s legendary alehouse (a war I witnessed firsthand in graduate school). The world has moved on.

The National Council of Women’s Organizations may be insufferably strident and sanctimonious, but Augusta’s clumsy arrogance demonstrated why women’s advocacy groups may still be necessary. Do Augusta’s well-heeled big shots really want to fossilize a system that will narrow the professional opportunities and privileges of their daughters and granddaughters? Exclusion does translate to inferiority over time. Augusta should dredge up a couple of harmless, deep-pocket dames and add them to the rolls. The temple won’t fall. Meanwhile, it’s time for ornery Hootie Johnson, having done unnecessary damage to Augusta’s glorious reputation, to toddle off down the green into the peachy Georgia sunset.

Camille Paglia is University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Her fifth book, an introduction to poetry, is forthcoming from Pantheon.

Golf is a man’s game

By Christopher Hitchens

DURING MY very first visit to New York City, in the summer of 1970, there was a big flap about McSorley’s Old Ale House, one of downtown’s most venerable bars, and its “men only” policy. Feminism viewed the matter in the light of the Civil Rights movement, the flame of which was still glowing brightly. The McSorley boys defended themselves on the rather unheroic basis that they didn’t have a ladies’ room. When I thought about this cause celebre at all, I decided that I had no interest in going to a bar where there was no chance of meeting the opposite sex.

Now, Mayor Bloomberg has decreed that no bar in his city can hang out so much as a shingle saying “smokers welcome.” And so the years of New York Bohemia appear to have come to an end. Someone else always knows what’s good for us.

The dispute over Hootie Johnson and the Augusta golf club falls somewhere between the two apparent “goods” of “nondiscrimination” on the one hand, and “diversity” on the other. Many people unreflectingly think the “antidiscrimination” ethic is the same as the “diversity” one, which is why Tiger Woods’ name has been dragged into the row. However, diversity is a matter of “choice” by definition. And you can’t make a choice, again by definition, if you can’t be discriminating.

Racism was not a matter of “separate but equal.” It was a matter of “separate but unequal” or, to be blunt, of “separate but suppressed.” In the lousy old days, Mr. Woods would have been prevented from walking on a fairway at all unless (like the staff at Bill Clinton’s all-white club in Arkansas) he was a caddie. There is quite obviously no equivalent danger here. Women can play golf if they want and they can–again unlike black citizens in the old South–set up all-female clubs if they like. There are plenty of golf courses. No one is being prevented from playing.

I play fairly seldom and don’t follow sports as a rule, but it does seem to me that golf is a man’s game. Not a man’s game in the way that field hockey is a women’s game, but still. It’s certainly one of the games where men and women compete only with their own genders. (Exclusion from one club or even one event therefore does not prohibit women from competing at the highest level.) Thus, if there was a law saying that no women could join any golf clubs in Georgia, I would be fiercely opposed to it. If there was a law saying that all golf clubs in Georgia had to be either all male or all female, I would think it rather ridiculous. But if there is a state of affairs where the odd club is for men only, we are doing no more than observing an ancient rule–which most women understand and even sigh with relief about–that every once in a while the boys will gather for poker or martinis and not invite their wives. (The husband-and-mistress-only club will have to wait …)

A big and various country containing millions of grownups not only should but must be prepared for the shock of “diversity” to mean “diverse.” This is a case where the feminist movement should be even more pro-choice than it already is.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and a visiting professor of Liberal Studies at the New School University in New York. His most recent book is Why Orwell Matters.

Give it up, Hootie

By Thomas L. Friedman

IN LIFE, as in golf, the most important swing thought is to always play within yourself–know who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and stay within them. Nobody seems to have told Hootie Johnson that.

As a columnist for The New York Times, I know a little bit about working for an institution that becomes, in some ways, larger than life. Some 100 years ago, The Times was just one of many New York City newspapers, but slowly, by dint of its careful and honest journalism, it became something larger. It became the Gray Lady, the newspaper that sets the national agenda in politics, art, society and foreign affairs, “the newspaper of record,” the newspaper every young journalist hopes to work for. The New York Times didn’t ask for this role, but it did aspire to it, and one day, after an invisible tipping point was passed, it just happened.

As journalists and columnists for The Times, we are expected to meet the very highest standards of fairness. It’s not the law. It’s just about who we have become and what our readers have come to expect.

I look at Augusta the same way. There was no act of Congress that made the Masters “a major.” And there is no law that says Augusta will be America’s official “Temple of Golf.” It just happened that this club in Georgia, by virtue of the quality of the tournament it ran and the course it nurtured, and the respect for the tradition and rules of golf that it maintained, became not Augusta National, but America National. It became larger than life. And when it did, the club and its members derived many benefits, not to mention the respect and envy of every golfer in the world.

With those benefits come responsibilities. And Augusta’s responsibility as America National is to be an inclusive club, in ways that maybe its founders never envisaged or its current membership would even prefer. No, the law doesn’t mandate this. What Augusta has become, and come to represent for the world of golf, mandates it.

Watching Hootie Johnson flail away on this issue, ignoring this reality, reminds me of a guy who hits his ball into a shallow stream. Half the ball is sticking out of the water and half is under water. Instead of playing within himself, and understanding his situation, he takes off his shoes, rolls up his pants, and tries to hit it out.

Well, by now I’d say Hootie has taken about 15 strokes, he’s got mud all over himself, his pants are soaking wet and his ball is still sitting in the middle of that stream. Here’s some free advice from an old caddie, Hootie: You’re never going to win this one. You’re not your granddaddy’s country club anymore. Take a drop, admit a lady, and move on to the next tee before you turn Augusta from something larger than life into something smaller than life.

Contributing Editor Thomas L. Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer Prizewinning foreign-affairs columnist for The New York Times.

I’m for Duffers’ Rights

By Joe Klein

MY DAUGHTER goes to an all-girls school. I find this outrageous. The absence of testosterone enables Sophie and her friends to exercise their superior social and networking abilities to my detriment. She is not only a more confident and assertive young lady, she also has the quiet support and counsel of a gaggle of parent-hating good ol’ girls. This improves her debating and finagling skills immeasurably and, consequently, has a negative impact upon my financial viability. I’ll bet they even tell jokes about us: “Didja hear the one about the dad who thought he was cool?” Furthermore, I would argue that this exclusionary policy is having a destructive impact on her male peers: Without girls in class, who will civilize the young men of America?

You get my drift. Soap Boxes are unsuitable when it comes to the nuanced tendencies of men and women to seek the comfort of those of their own gender; over the past few months, the vehemence of underemployed feminists, over-caffeinated New York Times editors and atavistic Augustan G.O.B.s (Good Ol’ Bosses) have seemed equally ridiculous. There are no fixed rules to govern this situation, except, perhaps, this Grouchotic one: No right-minded person should want to be a member of a club that has a man named Hootie as chairman. Unless … of course, that club has the lushest fairways and smoothest greens and the trickiest little stream meandering through the back nine–unless it was paradise on earth for those who share the Peculiar Addiction.

The Peculiar Addiction should not be confused with “the Peculiar Institution”–the most oleaginous euphemism for slavery–and yet it has been: Augusta National is an issue, in part, because it is located in Augusta. It is the sort of place where people like Trent Lott have told jokes and made deals and felt a little too comfortable: a bit like my daughter’s school, perhaps, but with a rather different heritage.

There should be retreats where men and women can find relief from each other–just ask your spouse how he or she feels about this. But I don’t know where you draw the line on these things. Clubs like Augusta will probably have to pay a price for their past. There will be women members soon. That is both just and unfair, politically satisfying and social overkill. And it opens the door for the next crusade: Duffers’ Rights. I want to be able to play Augusta, too.

Joe Klein is a Time Magazine columnist, a former staff writer for The New Yorker, and author of Primary Colors.

Rewriting the rules

By Holly Brubach

HAVING GROWN UP playing golf, I have watched the controversy over Augusta National’s refusal to admit women as members with a certain degree of bemusement. Most surprising to me is the widespread astonishment–as if women had achieved equality in corporate boardrooms or Wall Street or Congress, everywhere but on the golf course. After all those years of changing my shoes in a cramped ladies’ locker room on the far side of the clubhouse while the men were ensconced in quarters that were spacious and convenient, waiting till 1 o’clock to tee off on weekends, and eating lunch at the snack bar while my father and his foursome retired to the all-male 19th Hole, my indignation has been exhausted.

The Augusta National controversy essentially comes down to two questions: One, does a private institution–albeit one with a public profile–have the right to exclude people on the basis of gender? Thirty years ago, my answer would have been a flat-out “no.” Now, however, my reply is a resounding … “maybe,” on the basis of my own experience. Four women friends and I meet for dinner on a regular basis. To appease the men in our lives, who have protested our refusal to include them on these occasions, we have every so often (OK, twice in seven years) invited them to join us–much as the formerly all-male social club I joined not long ago used to host an open house on New Year’s Day, enabling members’ wives and daughters to tour premises off-limits to them the other 364 days a year. The truth is, my women friends and I don’t want men at our dinners, because their presence changes the conversation, and, much as we adore them and love their company, we understand that our time together without them has greatly enriched our lives, both personally and professionally. Now if only we had our own golf course ….

The outcry calling on Tiger Woods to boycott the Masters begs the second question: Are the members of one minority morally obliged to fight for the rights of other minorities? When Woods first won the Masters, his victory, with all its symbolic dimensions, was undoubtedly a wake-up call for the world of golf. Even so, his success hasn’t opened the floodgates. When I was in college in the ’70s, I told a woman I knew, a doctor who had gone to medical school in the ’20s, how much I admired her pioneering courage in the face of what must have been enormous obstacles. “Oh,” she said, “it’s going to be much harder for you. I was the exception to the rule. But your generation is forcing them to rewrite the rules.” In the 13 years since Augusta National repealed its segregation policy, only a handful of black members have been admitted–few enough to qualify as exceptions. For the time being, the rule is intact.

Holly Brubach is an author and the former style editor of the The New York Times.

The Augusta Eight

By Lewis Lapham

MARTHA BURK demands of Augusta National that it waive its constitutional right to its own identity and hand over its freedoms of thought and expression to some other and more competent authority, if not into the personal custody of Ms. Burk then possibly to the Commandant at Fort Benning or the Admissions Office of Harvard University. Assume that the club promptly complies with her order, that the members shave their heads and flog themselves with whips, what great social good would Ms. Burk have brought to pass? An affirmative action in favor of a few rich women not yet rich enough.

Speaking in the voice of an endangered species of feminist, Ms. Burk doesn’t say that women must be allowed to play golf at Augusta (they have been doing so since the club was established in 1933); nor does she insist that women compete in the Masters Tournament, which would lead her to argue that they also must be invited to play in the World Series and the Super Bowl. She doesn’t even quarrel with the distribution of the world’s financial blessings, content to acknowledge that even in the best of circumstances (a chastened membership diligent in its practice of heightened gender awareness and busy petting baby rabbits), the club could admit over the next five years probably no more than seven or eight women attractively coordinated with the color and fragrance of money.

The absence of an obvious crime against humanity doesn’t matter because in the mind of Ms. Burk Augusta National isn’t a golf club; it’s a duck-blind camouflaged to look like a golf club. She believes that important corporate executives belong to it so that they can lure other important corporate executives into expensive frauds and first-class swindles, and she doesn’t care whether the feminine members ever play the course or know the difference between a sand iron, a mint julep, a magnolia and a hummingbird. She defines as an oppressed minority the few heiresses and company chairwomen deprived of their right to important investment opportunities, and the fact that a woman possessed of an income of $20 million a year might miss a chance to add another California beach house to her collection of fine furniture she regards as a callous proof of male domination. A moral outrage. A disgrace and an abomination. Thwart the poor woman in her righteous wrath, and maybe it will occur to her to demand, on behalf of the Augusta 8, membership privileges in Bill Clinton’s bathtub.

Lewis Lapham is the editor of Harper’s Magazine.

RELATED ARTICLE: Opinions: everyone’s got one.

IS IT UNFAIR? YES. Do I want to see a female member? Yes. But it’s our right to have any club set up the way we want to. Tiger Woods

I CAN’T BELIEVE we’re still fighting this stuff–racism, gender equality or whatever. Juli Inkster

MY SPIN ON it is, I can’t spin. Jack Nicklaus

THEY’RE 10 YEARS BEHIND the times. They should have had a lady member in there 10 years ago. Nick Price

I DON’T FEEL WOMEN have to go join Augusta, because it’s really not a man-woman issue. It’s just understood. I don’t feel like there’s discrimination there. Nancy Lopez

LISTEN, I’M ALL FOR women’s rights. I’m for equal pay and for women doing as good a job as men. She’s got my vote. But I think it’s getting a little out of control. Mark O’Meara

THE PRIVATE-CLUB EXCUSE works for Johnson 51 weeks a year. In the 52nd week, Augusta National becomes the very public face of golf and has a responsibility to act in an acceptable public manner, which means it can’t discriminate against 51 percent of the population.

Christine Brennan, Golf World, Sept. 13, 2002

THIS IS A DISPUTE so absurd it scarcely seems worth arguing, the last gasp of exclusionary privilege that began its death rattle when Augusta admitted black men in 1990. In the foreseeable future the club will clearly find itself sulking reluctantly into the 21st century.

Anna Quindlen, Newsweek, Dec. 2, 2002

LISTEN, YOU OLD COOT. (Sorry if you loathe that description.) You cannot win this fight. Eventually, the code of silence will snap.

Selena Roberts, The New York Times, Nov. 13, 2002

We are unable to require Augusta National to implement our host-club policy.

Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour

Because of the place Augusta holds in the international consciousness, it must do the right thing and admit women.

Ty Votaw, commissioner of the LPGA Tour

As night follows day, Hootie … will lose this battle. Exclusion on the basis of sex is indefensible.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Tribune Syndicate, Nov. 24, 2002

THIS IS NOT a legal issue. This is a moral issue.

Martha Burk

WE WILL PREVAIL because we’re right.

Hootie Johnson

COPYRIGHT 2003 New York Times Company Magazine Group, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

You May Also Like

Keep your mind fresh

Keep your mind fresh Starting in your 50s, you have to decide whether you’re going to use age as an excuse for not getting any better or …

Slow-play crackdown – The Digest

Slow-play crackdown – The Digest – Brief Article Every year, PGA Tour officials say they will get tough on slow-play offenders–blah, bla…

It’s a Croc, All Right

Crocodile Eats Golfer: It’s a Croc, All Right Dave Kindred Tall tale: The story of the Florida golfer who became crocodile food is …

Play it smart when hitting over trouble – golf

Play it smart when hitting over trouble – golf – Brief Article Tom Watson Some shots require extra precision or else they exact a s…