Even Tiger Woods, he of multiracial heritage, spoke up, sort of, when prompted. He didn’t want to lose any endorsements, but he also didn’t want to look like a complete hypocrite (that came later, when his now ex-wife found out how he really regarded women).
The protest against Augusta in 2003, led by Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, turned into a circus. Burk and her supporters were corralled onto a vacant lot a half-mile from the club, where they waved signs and made speeches while play continued uninterrupted on the hushed greens.
Standing there that afternoon, one couldn’t help but feel that the Deep South hadn’t changed much. The womenfolk were relegated to the parlor to exchange frivolous gossip while the men, smoking cigars and sipping whiskey, conducted serious business in the library. Segregation was alive and well — not a surprise, but depressing nonetheless. Confirmation that it’s a white man’s world in America.
Part of the reason for golf’s falling participation rate in recent years is the burdensome perception of it as a game for the rich. It’s expensive and time consuming, even in prosperous times. Many clubs emit an unwelcoming vibe. In Scotland, the birthplace of golf, public courses are abundant and accessible.
Augusta has cracked open its gates — not to women, but to wealthy, successful women. The trickle-down effect can’t hurt, especially for women’s golf in the United States, which is suffering from a lack of American champions on the pro circuit.
Like Saudi Arabia, Augusta National grudgingly gave in. No one is expecting Saudi women to rule the kingdom or win the women’s World Cup. No one is expecting the LPGA at Amen Corner.
Change counts, though. At Augusta, the Spanish moss already looks a lot less like cobwebs.