Augusta more about the greenback than the greens

MARK REASON
Last updated 07:19 22/08/2012

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OPINION: It's not about women, it's about the money. Feminists the world over will be congratulating themselves over Augusta National's decision to admit women members for the first time in its history, when they should be manning the protest lines along with every other ethical member of the human race. Augusta's invitation to Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore is repugnant and amoral.

Sponsorship revenue is the true reason that these two members of the fairer sex have been invited onto the sacred lawns. Augusta was terrified that it would lose the backing of IBM and some of its other major sponsors if it didn't start admitting female members.

The problem had been magnified by IBM's appointment of Virginia Rometty as its chief executive officer. The four previous CEOs at IBM had all been members of Augusta National. If the club did not make a statement about female membership, it risked alienating one of its biggest sponsors.

And so Augusta has extended its hand of friendship to Rice and Moore. What sort of message does this send to the world? Well, most of the headlines seem to be concerned solely with the rather obvious fact that these two people are both women. The media might do better to concern itself with what section of society Rice and Moore really represent. I certainly would not be thrilled if they represented the women in my family.

Rice was a patsy for George W Bush. The "warrior princess" was a proponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, wrote an article "Why we know Iraq is lying" about weapons of mass destruction and said "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud".

She was also the frontwoman for Bush's regime of torture and she approved waterboarding of prisoners. Rice was Bush's national security adviser in 2001 and many people feel she was complacent ahead of the 9/11 attacks. This may have informed her subsequent brutality.

But never mind all of that, Tiger Woods approves Rice's membership of Augusta. Woods said: "I think the decision by the Augusta National membership is important to golf. The club continues to demonstrate its commitment to impacting the game in positive ways. I would like to congratulate both new members, especially my friend Condi Rice".

Sorry, but where was Tiger's voice when it might have been heard. Back in 2003, Martha Burk, of the National Council of Women's Organisations, a sexist group if ever there was one, was campaigning for women to be admitted to Augusta. I happened to be there at the time and about 30 people turned up to hear her proclamations.

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I am not a believer in Burk's cause. I believe in the right of private member clubs to choose their membership so long as they do not discriminate on the basis of race. There are women's book groups up and down New Zealand who would not want to have to admit a man into their midst. Are private golf clubs different and if so, why. If it is a question of numbers, then what is the number - 10, 50, 100?

I do not want to be part of a male-only golf club. I play golf regularly with my mother, my wife, my daughter and my sister- in-law. But people's right of assembly should be respected according to their tastes and according to the law. Formby Ladies Golf Club still happily exists in England. Their fourballs probably take 7 hours to get round. Never mind, I can always go and play somewhere else.

But I do object to Woods' craven statement: 'The decision by Augusta National is important to golf.' If it was so important, then why didn't Woods say so when he could have affected public opinion and made a difference. I guess he didn't want to upset his sponsors.

Yep, we are back to filthy lucre. Look at the other new inductee into Augusta's Hall of Shame. Moore was the highest female earner in the banking industry and is vice-president of a private investment company owned by her husband, Richard Rainwater. Hubbie also happens to have backed George W Bush in four business ventures and was accused of "owning" him in a gubernatorial election.

So please don't tell me the membership of Rice and Moore is one great leap for womankind. This "joyous occasion" as chairman Billy Payne put it, is a celebration of the grubby dollar and a quiet tribute to George W Bush.

Would you want to attend the "joyous occasion" to celebrate the Augusta membership of Rice and Moore? Do you want to be in the same room as ExxonMobil? The huge oil company is a Masters sponsor. Exxon is a friend to the Bushes, natural disasters and corrupt overseas regimes. Their next great plan is to start drilling in the Arctic in an effort to accelerate climate change.

Augusta National is run by bankers.

The current chairman, Billy Payne, is a banker and so is his predecessor, Hootie Johnson.

The beautiful verdant fairways are lined by greenbacks. Augusta may just have admitted two women but the gender of the place has not changed an iota.

It is still an old boys' club dominated by the smell of cash.

In celebration of Augusta National's first two women members, they should rename the club Georgia W Bush.

Mark Reason is a sportswriter formerly with the Times of London and Daily Telegraph in the UK. He now lives in Wairarapa.

- Taranaki Daily News

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