Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Out of the rough

It hardly seems necessary to congratulate Augusta National Golf Club for opening its membership to women for the first time in 80 years. But the change in policy, which comes two decades after the Georgia club admitted its first black member, still should be applauded.

As a private club, Augusta has been able to decide for itself who could join. But as host of the Masters, an annual tournament that attracts thousands of spectators and millions of TV viewers, it was under mounting public and corporate pressure to open its doors.

Last week, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne issued a statement that was short on explanation but long on self-congratulation for the club's decision. Calling it a "joyous occasion," Mr. Payne announced the memberships of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and investment executive Darla Moore.

"These accomplished women share our passion for the game of golf and both are well-known and respected by our membership," Mr. Payne's statement said. "This is a significant and positive time in our club's history."

Indeed it is, but this moment would not have occurred without a crusade launched in 2003 by Martha Burk, an equal-rights activist who threatened a boycott of sponsors of the Masters. Augusta resisted the tactic; former chairman Hootie Johnson vowed that women would not be admitted to the club "at the point of a bayonet."

The absurdity of the men-only policy was laid bare when, after previously admitting as members male CEOs from IBM, a major Masters sponsor, Augusta did not invite current CEO Virginia Rometty to join. National political voices from President Obama to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney chastised the club for its policy.

For most Americans, Augusta's belated decision is the right one. It's good not only for women and the cause of equality but also for the game of golf, which sees female players as a growth market — something that Augusta, even from a selfish perspective, failed to recognize.

We hope that Ms. Rice, Ms. Moore, and other women members enjoy the course. Change has been a long time coming.

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