The lack of female membership in the 80-year-old Augusta National Golf Club used to be a major feminist cause, briefly inflated into a headline story during the early 2000s with a bizarrely obsessive campaign from the New York Times. Times readers could have been forgiven for thinking the urgency of admitting female members to the club was among the most important issues facing America.
Martha Burk, who at the time headed up the National Organization for Women, filled the pages of the Times with shrieking hysteria, including an attempt to portray Augusta???s reluctance to accept female members as ???an insult to the 250,000 women serving in the United States military.??? Burk tried to pressure advertisers into withdrawing their support for the Masters golf tournament, and attacked the legitimacy of the tournament itself.
Burk???s nemesis was William ???Hootie??? Johnson, chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club. His mild rejoinder to Burk???s theatrics was, ???There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership, but that timetable will be ours and not at the point of a bayonet.???
(It might be useful to clarify two important points: 1. While the club did not have a female member, women were not forbidden to play at Augusta. 2. Johnson is not the same ???Hootie??? that used to sing with the Blowfish.)
As it turned out, a decade would elapse before Augusta???s timetable was fulfilled. With nary a bayonet in sight, current Augusta chairman Billy Payne just announced the first two female members: investor Darla Moore of Lake City, South Carolina, and Bush Administration Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
???We are fortunate to consider many qualified candidates for membership at Augusta National,??? said Payne. ???Consideration with regard to any candidate is deliberate, held in strict confidence and always takes place over an extended period of time. The process for Condoleezza and Darla was no different. These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well known and respected by our membership. It will be a proud moment when we present Condoleezza and Darla their Green Jackets when the Club opens this fall.???