Ginni Rometty Graham Carlow/IBM via Bloomberg
As Augusta National Golf Club prepares to host the Masters competition next week, it faces a dilemma over it’s previously very strict rules concerning women. Augusta National Golf Club has not admitted a female member since it’s inception eight decades ago.
Step up the new chief executive officer of IBM, Ginni Rometty, will she be invited to wear a green jacket ? IBM is one of the three Masters sponsors, and historically Augusta National has invited the incumbent chief executive of IBM to the tournament. Since IBM named Ginni to the post this year, Augusta will have to break with tradition, one way or the other.
IBM has a hospitality cabin near the 10th hole, where the companies’ male CEOs have been able to don the club’s signature green member blazers while hosting clients. Non-members, who don’t wear the jackets, must be accompanied by a member to visit the course or play a round.
Augusta National, owns and hosts the Masters, it sets its own rules as a private club and has resisted calls for change in the past. Augusta carefully cultivates its image. Running on the course is forbidden, walking is the order of the day when seeking a good vantage point during the tournament or a bathroom break. Organizers of the Masters refer to fans as “patrons.”
William Johnson, a past club chairman, ended his 2003 annual gathering by saying the club’s position on women wouldn’t change;
“if I drop dead right now.”
When Billy Payne took over as chairman of Augusta National, he vowed to help shed the club’s “crusty” image, and then publicly criticized the extramarital affairs of four-time Masters winner Tiger Woods.
“Our hero did not live up to the expectations of a role model that we sought for our children.”
Augusta National has faced pressure to change its policy on women before. Martha Burk, then the president of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, led a protest outside the golf course’s gates during the 2003 Masters. Ginni does play golf, so there is no reason to exclude her on those grounds, the world is licking it’s lips, waiting to see what decision Augusta National comes up with.
Patrick Rishe, the Webster University professor, thinks that Augusta may resist the pressure to change again.
“It’s a private club, and I don’t think they’re really concerned about how others perceive them. Their ratings will not rise and fall based on how people view this particular topic. Their ratings will rise and fall if Tiger Woods is at the top of his game, if Tiger and Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy or some combination of them happen to be in the mix on the final day of the tournament.”
We will have just sit back, and wait to see, not long to go now.