Now that Augusta National is allowing women to become members, I’m just waiting for my invitation to come in the mail. The club was always going to take this step. It was just a matter of when, not if. I don’t think people function well under ultimatums, and it’s a private club, so it’s entitled to do whatever it wants to do. But it’s really about doing the right thing.
I’ve had the pleasure of playing at Augusta twice. I had a hole-in-one there the first time I played in 1999. It was one of the highlights of my career to have a hole-in-one on the 16th hole, so I can imagine the thrill and emotion former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore must be experiencing. I think the club made excellent choices in these two women.
A lot of golf clubs still don’t allow women as members. Because Augusta operates a worldwide golf tournament and has as members many of America’s CEOs, who have been given memberships as a result of running public companies, you can understand the outcry from the public ranks as time has marched on. Maybe this will open the floodgates. Women have long not had the chance to socialize in the all-male network that clubs like Augusta engender. So it’s nice to see that it has stepped into a 21st-century sensibility.
There’s a part of me that thinks people should be able to have their own clubs and do their own thing. I understand that. It’s like the famous Groucho Marx line “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” I think that certain clubs should be able to do what they want to do. But I think that when you’re showcasing a public golf tournament as an institution in the sport and claim your interests are to grow the game, sticking with an exclusionary policy seems disingenuous.
I played most of my career in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, and I still play all the time. The sport is returning to the Olympics for the 2016 Games, for the first time since it was dropped in 1904, and I’m designing the golf course for Rio de Janeiro with my partner, architect Gil Hanse. But the game is constantly evolving. There are more young players. They’re trying to get more and more women involved in sports. A lot of women love the game and play it and enjoy it—more junior golfers and more women players. The Olympics will open the game up more internationally, even in countries like Brazil.
Having the opportunity to play at Augusta was special. Of course, having a hole-in-one there was a dream of a lifetime. So my great experience there was doubled. From my understanding, Augusta members are great friends of golf. The sport has given me wonderful opportunities and taught me a lot of life lessons. So it’s a great day for women’s golf and for equality.
—As told to Maria Elena Fernandez