Augusta's Missing Links

Hootie, think of our daughters!

Yes, as chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, you, Hootie Johnson, do have every right - and even good reason - to restrict membership at your gorgeous grounds to men only.

Legally, your discrimination against women is allowed under the First Amendment's right of voluntary association.

And, admittedly, letting in women might just chase away the powerful men that many women golfers want to associate with. After all, how many boys have abandoned their tree houses after their parents forced them to let girls in?

But your club, and your sport, are too high-profile and too popular with both sexes to let the Augusta rest undisturbed under Georgia's blue sky.

It's not about equal access, as some claim. If women CEOs want the chance to network with the likes of Warren Buffett or Bill Gates - both Augusta members - they can catch them at a fundraiser or a charity event.

Nope, as home of the prestigious Masters Tournament, the club is in the national spotlight - a role model for the millions of men and women, boys and girls, who watch the sport, play it, and financially support it. After all, Suzy Whaley has just qualified to be the first woman to play in a PGA tournament, and the PGA of America is happy she did. (The LPGA, however, doesn't allow male contestants.)

Augusta realized in 1990 that times were a-changin' when it admitted its first black member. Think of the interest in golf that multiracial Tiger Woods inspired after he won his first Masters!

So, please, Hootie, think of our daughters who were given a chance by Title IX to do all kinds of sports in school, who may want to be golfers, and who maybe would like to watch the Masters, knowing women have a shot at reaching the top of the game.

Here's an easy first step toward change. Why not give women a membership that allows them to play golf during certain parts of the week? They can already play anytime as invited guests. The club can still have the comfort of male bonding, but at the same time, support women's growing interest in the great game of golf.

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