Augusta National Golf Club prides itself on a deep sense of tradition. Amen Corner, the Green Jacket, Jim Nantz one-liners — they are all part of the Masters lore.
Another part of that Masters tradition is exclusivity — but last Sunday, that exclusivity was taken too far.
The Bergen Record’s Tara Sullivan was attempting to enter the locker room to talk to Rory McIlroy after his monumental collapse during Sunday’s final round when she was apprehended by a female security guard who told Sullivan she was not allowed in — because she was a woman.
Sullivan immediately tweeted about the incident: “Bad enough no women members at Augusta. But not allowing me to join writers in locker room interview is just wrong.”
This was met, and rightfully so, with widespread outrage. Augusta National immediately issued an apology, claiming the security guard was a temporary employee who did not adequately understand the rules and policies of the club.
If we take Augusta at its word, it makes Payne and the club look a little better — but not by much.
That there was any confusion about a potential club policy of barring women from the locker room in the first place demonstrates the need for major change at Augusta.
There should be no possibility for such confusion at any major golf tournament, let alone the premier event for the sport.
Augusta needs a major overhaul — specifically adding its first woman member — to do the necessary damage control.
The club has survived prior gender discrimination controversies. In June 2002, Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, called for Augusta National to admit women as full members. Supporters of female members even went as far as to request some professionals to boycott the 2003 Masters.
Augusta now needs to step into the modern age.
Although adding women will anger the more traditional country club members, Chairman Bill Payne should still sacrifice his approval rating from those members to boost his approval rating from the public.
This latest incident has been picked up by most major media outlets and will continue to haunt Augusta until action is taken.
What happened at Augusta is an issue of refusing equal access; it is an issue of golf’s landmark event being openly and forcefully misogynistic.
Misogyny is an accepted theme of Augusta, and it’s something that simply cannot be tolerated any longer. Confusion about allowing a woman in the locker room 20 years ago? Wrong, but understandable. Confusion in 2011? Not at all.
Instead of Charl Schwartzel’s improbable victory, McIlroy’s momentous collapse or even Tiger Woods remarkable front nine, the dominant story emerging from this year’s Masters is Tara Sullivan’s rejection.
The event, meant to be the sport’s finest moment, ended up being one of its ugliest in recent history.
Hopefully by this time next year, the confusion won’t get in the way of a woman just trying to do her job — golf fans can only tolerate so much.
Cyrus Behzadi is a freshman majoring in communication. His column, “The Extra Point,” runs Wednesdays.