Business, Economics and Jobs

Augusta National Golf Club dilemma: Admit women members or snub Masters Tournament sponsor IBM?


2010 champion Phil Mickelson (L) puts the Green Jacket on Charl Schwartzel from South Africa after Schwartzel wins the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on April 10, 2011.



Augusta National Golf Club, host of next week’s Masters Tournament, finds itself in a bind this year, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Historically, it has invited the CEOs of companies that sponsor the Masters Tournament to attend the competition as members. The chief executives are given green members’ jackets to wear and can roam the grounds freely or play a round.

However, the CEO of longtime sponsor IBM is now a woman, Ginni Rometty. And Augusta National has never admitted a woman member since it opened 80 years ago.

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Said to be among Augusta National’s 300 members, according to the Washington Post: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Louis V. Gerstner Jr., Pete Petersen, Kenneth Chenault, Sanford Weill and George Schultz. The previous eight CEOs of IBM reportedly were all members.

“They have a dilemma on many levels,” Marcia Chambers, senior research scholar in law and journalist in residence at Yale University Law School, told Bloomberg News. “If there’s been a tradition of certain CEOs, then they should look at this new CEO in the same way. The only thing that makes her any different is her gender.”

Spokesmen for the Masters Tournament and IBM declined to comment on this story when contacted by Bloomberg News.

Women’s rights advocate Martha Burk, who led a protest against Augusta National’s male-only tradition in 2003, told that IBM should withdraw its Masters sponsorship if Rometty is not invited to join the club. Augusta National's male-only membership "is an archaic policy that does not agree with their company's values,” she said. “The board of directors has a responsibility here too. The board needs to distance the company from this club. But they've had that responsibility for the past nine years, and they haven't done anything about it.”

She added, "If they don't do anything, that is a sign of disrespect for their new CEO."

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