Jewish World Review Dec. 6, 2002 / 1 Teves, 5763

Tresa McBee

Tresa McBee
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Consumer Reports

Golfing with gals | I'm trying to care. Really.

Aw, who am I kidding. Don't care. Haven't yet. Never will.

If Augusta National Golf Club begins admitting women tomorrow, I won't care. If the home of the end-all of golf tournaments

never admits women, I won't care. CBS can or can't comment, it can or can't continue to carry the much-watched Masters.

Not interested.

Others, of course, are. The campaign to "integrate" Augusta is several months old, begun by Martha Burk, chairwoman of The National Council of Women's Organizations, which claims to represent a gaggle of women in the millions. Burk informed William "Hootie" Johnson, Augusta's chairman, that it was time to drive a golf ball through the club's clubby glass ceiling and immediately invite women to join. Johnson, in turn, said fuhgetaboutit in the firm, polite and mildly annoyed way a Southern man of a certain age from South Carolina might.

After trying unsuccessfully to pressure CBS or get Tiger Woods to agree that a private club isn't really private or get the PGA Tour to cease recognizing the Masters as a major, Burk finally got some highish-profile support from an organization that doesn't admit men.

Ty Votaw, commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, has said that while it's Augusta's right not to admit women presumably the way it's the LPGA's right not to admit men it's simply not the right thing to do, and he just hopes this issue will resolve itself quickly. Not doing so merely continues golf's exclusionary past, and the game is now about inclusion. Golf: the people's game.

If you're wondering, the LGPA will continue to prohibit men from playing on its tour the PGA has no prohibition, because that wouldn't be fair but future LPGA teaching and club professional memberships will be open to all. Sorta like if women want to play Augusta's course, they can and do but, for now, they can't join. Right this, right that. It gets confusing.

Burk's mission to apply pressure as is her right has reached corporations like American Express and Coca-Cola that have canceled their plans for the Masters. So while the locals who depend on the tournament wait out this awfully important gender issue to see how lower attendance affects their income, some women's groups have volunteered to visit Augusta and wear burkas in protest in, The New York Times reports, the same forest green as that worn by the winner of the Masters.

Because, of course, excluding women from a private, wealthy golf club has much in common with barring women from education and work and publicly executing them for mistakenly exposing an ankle.

Oppression is a terrible thing to endure. Some LPGA members won't be donning burkas. As Dottie Pepper, a golfer who's won 17 LPGA tournaments without the benefit of Augusta membership, told the Times, "If Augusta is not going to have a woman member, so what? Everybody has completely overreacted to something that, down the road, probably would have worked itself out anyway."

She might be correct. Some who know Johnson think he was beginning to work quietly behind the scenes to get women admitted. A father of four daughters, Johnson is considered one of the most liberal Augusta members and one who drove admitting the first black member. Johnson has appointed women in management and persuaded the University of South Carolina to name its business school after a wealthy female donor the first business school to do so. Johnson hardly appears anti-women.

But as Burk told The Washington Times, Johnson's work on racial issues doesn't mean jack when it comes to gender discrimination, and she thinks the majority of her countrypeople agree. "I don't really know what to think about Hootie, and it's not really my business to analyze him. My business is to get the club integrated." Says who? 'Cause her issue is not most women's. Those who've come of age the past 25 years don't worry too much about private clubs' membership policies. We think about the world we're handing to our children and evil extremists who could unleash who-knows-what and reports of women dead by honor killings or raped in a perverse form of "justice" or kept ignorant the better for breeding. And if far-away issues don't concern, we're plenty busy with the day-to-day cares of time and quality and balance and all those things that stem from our access to anything meaningful.

So whoever Martha Burk believes she's advocating for, it's not most women. It's a different fight now. Meanwhile, I wish those Augusta protesters good luck. Walk carefully and breath deeply. Those burkas can trip and suffocate, as women forced to wear them can attest.

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JWR contributor Tresa McBee is a columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Times. Comment by clicking here.

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