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Billy Payne non-comittal over women’s membership at Augusta after being peppered with questions (Video)

It’s that time of the year again: when the golf world descends upon Augusta for the Masters and the “Will Augusta National ever admit a female member?” debate comes to the forefront. The issue is of particular interest this year with Virginia Rometty taking over IBM as president and CEO in January. The previous four IBM heads — all male — have been extended invitations to join the club.

So when Augusta National chairman Billy Payne took the podium at his annual news conference on Wednesday, it was inevitable for the topic to be addressed. And when that question finally came, Payne delivered an elaborate answer:

“As has been the case whenever that question is asked, all issues of membership are now and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the members. That statement remains accurate and that remains my statement.”

A simple “no comment” would have been fine, but okay.

That wasn’t it, though. As you see in the above video, Payne’s non-commitment to admitting a female member seemed to open the floodgates for other reporters to pressure him.

A few notable remarks by the media: “Don’t you think it would send a wonderful message to young girls around the world if they knew that one day they could join this very famous golf club?” and “Seems like a mixed message, Billy… You’re throwing a lot of money into growing the game, and yet there’s still a perception that certain people are excluded.”

And yet, Payne still wouldn’t budge.

It was a complete reversal from the tone he had in his opening remarks when he talked about Augusta National helping golf recover from its slumping popularity, “We can do better. Golf is too precious, too wonderful, to sit on the sidelines and watch decreasing participation.”

I’m no expert, Billy, but I think opening your doors to women might be a good start if Augusta National really wants to grow the sport. But what else is there to expect from an old boys’ club that didn’t admit its first African-American member until 1990?


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