Eisenhower Tree removed from Augusta National after storm

Tiger Woods Eisenhower Tree

The famous Eisenhower Tree was removed from Augusta National over the weekend after it didn’t survive an ice storm.

The Eisenhower Tree lied on the 17th hole of the famous course and was so named because the nation’s 34th president used to hit his tee shots into it. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was a member of Augusta National and played the course during his presidency, lobbied but failed to have the tree removed from the course. The club chairman at the time, Clifford Roberts, ruled Eisenhower was out of order and adjourned the meeting.

The Eisenhower Tree was a Loblolly Pine that stretched about 65 feet high. It was estimated to be between 100-125 years old. Current Augusta National chairman Billy Payne says the club is already considering options to replace the tree on the course. He also says preparation for the upcoming Masters in April will not be affected by the removal of the tree.

“The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept,” Payne said in a statement. “We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible.

“We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history — rest assured, we will do both appropriately.”

ESPN says the tree was already being held up by cables and that Augusta National was preparing for this day.

Here’s how the tree looked after the storm:

Condoleezza Rice, Darla Moore become first female members at Augusta National

Augusta National has finally broken its gender barrier for club membership. The exclusive Georgia golf club invited Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore to become members when the club opens for a new season in October, and both women accepted.

The acceptance of female members ends a long-standing debate that raged in 2002 when Martha Burk of the National Council of Women’s Organizations demanded the club accept female members. That year the NCWO urged companies not to advertise on the Masters, and they urged CBS not to televise the tournament.

10 years after the issue came to the forefront in discussions, Augusta National has acted.

It’s pretty clear that Augusta National chairman Billy Payne (pictured) and the others in charge at the club succumbed to public pressure by extending invitations to women. As recently as April, Payne seemed unwilling to discuss the matter.

While I think that overall it’s better for people and organizations to be inclusive rather than exclusive, I’ve always felt that Augusta National had the right to limit membership to whomever they chose. If they didn’t want me in their club, then I wouldn’t want to play there anyhow. And if the women wanted to play golf at a beautiful, exclusive club, why not create one for themselves?

The inclusion of female members at Augusta National is probably a good step for gender equality, but we still shouldn’t lose sight of what the club is: a group that limits its membership to the most prominent and wealthy folks in the country. You think they let scrubs in there? You think they have Joe the Plumber playing rounds and hanging out in the locker room? Condoleezza Rice is one of the most distinguished women in the country. Moore is one of the richest. It may be open to female members now, but let’s not take this news to mean that Augusta National is suddenly open to everyone.

Mitt Romney would want women admitted to August National Golf Club

Augusta National Golf Club remains committed to admitting only males as members, but politician Mitt Romney says he would change that if he were in charge.

The Republican presidential candidate responded to a reporter’s question about the gender issue at Augusta National Thursday and said he wants women in the club.

“Well of course. I’m not a member of Augusta. I don’t know if I would qualify — my golf game is not that good — but certainly if I were a member and if I could run Augusta, which isn’t likely to happen, but of course I’d have women in Augusta. Sure,” Romney said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Romney was the second politician to support women receiving admission to the club on Thursday. Earlier in the day, a White House spokesman said President Barack Obama believes women should be admitted.

The club has the right to decide its membership, and it’s withstood plenty of political pressure. As long as they avoid events that cause serious backlash (like what happened last year), they may continue to have their way.

H/T Off the Bench

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. [Read more...]

Tara Sullivan Denied Access to Locker Room at Masters, Augusta Apologizes

On a day that Charl Schwartzel stole the show at the Masters and Rory McIlroy had a historic collapse, the outdated set of gender rules at Augusta National managed to take over golf headlines.

Tara Sullivan, a columnist for The Bergen Record of New Jersey, changed the conversation when she tweeted that she wasn’t allowed in the locker room for an interview. “Bad enough no women members at Augusta. But not allowing me to join writers in locker room interview is just wrong,” she wrote.

The tweet quickly spread throughout the twitterverse and turned into an Associated Press story.

It was no matter that the officials at Augusta apologized for the mistake as soon as they heard about the problem. It was no matter that they paged Sullivan to address the matter immediately.

As soon as her tweet spread throughout the media, the damage had already been done.

What’s most interesting about the story is that it was actually a female security guard who stopped Sullivan to say she wasn’t allowed in the locker room. The security guard was persistent with the policy according to Sullivan, and it sure seems like she was mistaken with her rules. But if the Masters is so biased as gender biased club, wouldn’t it have been a male security guard denying Sullivan access? I would think so, and this just further confirms it was a mistake.

I just hope people don’t use this story as an excuse to explore Augusta National’s male-only membership policy. As a club, they have the right to restrict membership to males, just as female clubs can do the same. Take this for what it was — a mistake, and nothing more. Too bad Charl Schwartzel’s win will likely be overshadowed because of it.