Augusta National's decision extends beyond golf
- By Jason Sobel
- Aug 21, 2012 4:53 PM ET
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – It was Tuesday morning and Pat Perez was walking off the driving range at Bethpage Black, host of this week’s Barclays tournament. Approached for reaction to the news that Augusta National Golf Club had invited its first two females for membership, he looked quizzically at the questioner.
“I didn’t hear anything,” he said of what was then a nearly 24-hour-old story. “I don’t follow news.”
The point of this anecdote isn’t to embarrass Perez, who rationally explained that he was on a plane for much of the past day and had only listened to satellite music stations on his car radio. It is to highlight a theme that has been sparked since the announcement.
This is not a golf story.
In the aftermath of Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore accepting membership invitations to what was formerly a men’s-only club, we’ve learned plenty about the public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for this news.
It is a polarizing story, the finality of a long-standing issue capturing the attention of a nation that had waited and wondered if it ever would have happened.
It is an incendiary story, causing division and derision amongst the masses, stimulating debate on why the announcement was made and whether it was the proper call.
It is a societal story, inciting discussions about equal rights and future progressions in similar arenas.
This story is many things. But it is not a golf story.
That notion is now cemented as many of the world’s elite golfers have been asked their opinions of Augusta’s newest changes since the announcement.
It’s not that they don’t have opinions on the matter, because they do. It’s that their opinions aren’t any more introspective or informative based on having played in the Masters Tournament on those hallowed grounds every April.
Which shouldn’t be misconstrued as criticism. Such thoughts are to be expected; we shouldn’t have foreseen any unique observations from those who have played the course – or even those who have won there.
“It was good to see,” said reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson. “It's always in their (Augusta National’s) time. They want to do it the right way, they want to get the right membership in there what they're looking for, and obviously it's great. It's great for golf; it's great for the game.”
“In my opinion, or based on what I've read and what I've seen, the timing is right to have a couple women members so far and hats off to them,” said 2007 champion Zach Johnson. “If that's their prerogative and that's the direction they want to go, that's fantastic.”
Solid, well-spoken opinions from each man. But the opportunity to wear a green jacket on the premises for one week every April hardly qualifies either of owning distinct insight into the situation nor a thought process that belies otherwise common impressions.
That’s because this may be a story about a club that hosts the world’s most prestigious annual golf tournament, but at its root, this is not a story about golf.
Not that the game isn’t impacted by the decision.
“It's good for golf for sure,” Dustin Johnson said. “Augusta does so much for growing the game of golf, and I think this is just another step towards what Augusta is. It's great for them. I think they've caught a lot of heat for it, so I think it's good. It's definitely good for golf.”
That has been very much the prevailing sentiment since Monday’s announcement. While the game’s best golfers can more decidedly opine on such issues at the club as lengthening of the course or the introduction of rough, when it comes to this one they are merely bystanders and observers like the rest of us.
Perhaps it was Perez who, after being apprised of the recent news, made the most sensible comment from a player’s perspective.
“I don’t care when I’m on the course,” he explained. “A guy wants to bring his wife out and he’s a member, he’s entitled to do whatever he wants. Augusta wants to let them in? Hey, that’s their choice. I mean, I can’t even go there. It’s their decision. I think they should have a woman member. I think it’s the right thing to do. But it’s their decision.”
When next April rolls around, when the azaleas are blooming and the golf world converges on Augusta National Golf Club, this story will once again find time in the spotlight. And once again, it will be one that evokes so many emotions.
That’s because it’s a story about so many different things. Everything, it seems, except golf.
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