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The Green Coat of Shame

"It doesn't get more beautiful than Augusta for the Masters," a TV announcer for the famed golf tournament said on Sunday.

I beg to differ.

Apologies to those who love the sport, but your game is way off.

There is no place in today's society for a country club that excludes people based on their gender. It's time August National Golf Club joined the 21st century and allowed female members.

Augusta National, the prestigious Georgia club where the Masters has been played for the last 78 years, has continually refused to allow women to join. Although women can play as guests of members, the club has stubbornly clung to its male-only-members tradition, even after the National Council of Women's Organizations led a protest back in 2002. This year, Augusta's discriminatory rules regained attention because IBM, which sponsors the Masters and whose top official has routinely been given membership, is now led by a female CEO, Virginia Rometty.

On Sunday, Rometty wore a conspicuous pink blazer, not the traditional green jacket awarded members.

I understand that private clubs set their own rules. If the men of Augusta National want to cling to their backward ways, they have that right. They can hole up in their man cave and pretend they still have the power to club women over their heads for all I care.

But if you're a multinational corporation that toots your horn about diversity and still dares to associate with a place like this, I do care.

Shame on you IBM, Exxon and AT&T. Your silence this past weekend was deafening. "No comment" is not an acceptable response. Your world is not the one I want my daughters growing up in.

Promoting women internally while publicly putting your money behind organizations that exclude them doesn't make you progressive or admirable. It makes you a hypocrite.

Let's not kid ourselves that this is just about golf. It's about power. Augusta and other so-called great clubs in this country were founded by businessmen who wanted to establish an inner circle of power brokers. There's a reason that two of the richest men in the world -- Bill Gates and Warren Buffett -- are members here.

I have no problem with men and women spending time apart. I even think it's healthy. But it becomes a problem when separation of the sexes deprives more than half our population from having a shot at some of that power.

This past weekend, both President Barack Obama's spokesman and Mitt Romney, the potential Republican Party challenger, said Augusta should admit female members. More than 7,500 people signed a petition on change.org calling for Augusta National to make Rometty a member.

The best way to change exclusionary private clubs is from within. It takes golfers refusing to don their green jackets and big corporations refusing their sponsorships.

In 1990, IBM joined other corporate sponsors, including Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., in pulling TV ads from the PGA Championship when that year's tournament was played at the then whites-only Shoal Creek, outside of Birmingham, Ala. Augusta National subsequently ended its racial barrier.

Is discriminating against someone based on their gender any less offensive than discriminating against someone based on their skin color?

Unless someone takes a stand, nothing is going to change.

Bubba Watson, as a new father, are you comfortable wearing that new green jacket? If you and your wife had adopted a girl, instead of a boy, last month, would you have hesitated at all to accept a lifetime membership to a place that snubs her just because she happened to be born with a vagina instead of a penis?

Any man who has a daughter – or a mother, sister or wife, for that matter – should think long and hard about the cost of belonging to Augusta National. And I'm not talking about the $10,000 to $30,000 initiation fee.

Two years ago, Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne publicly ripped Tiger Woods after his sex scandal, complaining that "Our hero did not live up to the expectations as a role model that we sought for our children."

Those are high and mighty words from someone whose organization actively and unapologetically excludes women.

Mr. Payne, we don't need another hero. We just need someone to do what's right.

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