An important issue in the national media this week actually arose several months ago. At that time, Martha Burk, the head of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, had been leading the movement to get women into The Masters golf tournament, and claimed that the organization discriminated against women who wished to participate. Since then she has continued her assault on the organization with unrelenting hostility, threatening to picket the tournament this year. I am no great golf fan, but I can tell that she obviously cares a great deal for the splendor of The Masters Tournament.
The issue came back into the spotlight this past week because of a response article by Hootie Johnson, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, printed in the Nov. 12 edition of The Wall Street Journal. In it, Johnson defended the position of his organization, saying that “men and women have always occasionally sought out single-sex spheres in certain corners of their social lives.” You know what? He’s right.
Why does Burk want women to join The Masters? Does she really believe that there is some kind of malicious conspiracy going on to keep women from enjoying something truly special? Does she think that Adolf Hitler and C. Montgomery Burns are on a committee somewhere plotting to keep women out just to be mean? Never mind that women can play golf nearly everywhere else at virtually any time.
The fact is, Augusta National is a private organization, and as such, it is not required to allow women to play on its courses. But the organization does. In truth, Augusta National is open to women for every event except The Masters. Yet Burk is not satisfied. She seems to forget that there is no sacred protection to play golf under the U.S. Constitution.
Burk has also issued statements saying that The Masters should move away from Augusta National based on their stance toward female membership. Unfortunately for her, The Masters, since its existence, has been a privately held organization, and it will stay that way. Burk hopes that someday Augusta National will be forced to accept women members. The day that law is passed is the day that private ownership dies in the United States, and the day I move to Russia, where, as Abraham Lincoln said, “they make no pretense of loving liberty.”
Liberty, you ask? Yes, liberty. Private organizations, as well as individuals, have rights. The uninformed may call it bigoted, backward, unfair and unkind, but the fact remains that Augusta National, over the past five years, has contributed $15.5 million to charity. The point is, as Johnson points out, the original idea behind the tournament was “to gather friends, by invitation, one week each year for sportsmanship.” But Burk wants to force women in. Why would women want to join a private organization that does not want to admit them in the first place? Doesn’t that sound like the kind of place women wouldn’t want to join?