Augusta National's power forces Finchem to fold
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Score another victory for power and money.
More than 20 years ago, after the 1990 Shoal Creek racial controversy, the PGA Tour and other major golf organizations decided to no longer hold their tournaments at clubs whose memberships exclude because of race or gender. As a result, clubs such as Cypress Point and all-male Butler National lost Tour events.
During that time, Augusta National Golf got a pass. It has an all-male membership but has continued to be a co-sanctioned, official-money event on the Tour schedule.
The topic has been raised again this year because Virginia Rometty is the new chief executive officer of IBM, and the company’s four most recent CEOs reportedly have been Augusta members.
It follows that Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was asked about how the Tour views its discriminatory policy.
After saying the Tour carefully follows a policy in which it will not have co-sanctioned events at clubs not open to minority and female members, he in effect said the Masters gets an exemption.
“We have concluded a number of times now ... that we are not going to give up the Masters as a tournament on our tour,” Finchem said. “It’s too important. And so at the end of the day, the membership of that club will have to determine their membership. They are not doing anything illegal.
“We just elect to continue to recognize them as an official-money event on the PGA Tour because we think that it’s important to golf. . . . I know some people don’t like that position, and I appreciate that and I understand their reasoning, but that’s the decision we’ve made.”
I don’t like the fact that Augusta National gets a pass. I don’t like that the private club with public connections through the Masters hasn’t evolved to the point of admitting a female member. I don’t agree with the Tour’s double standard, its looking the other way in regard to the Masters.
And I don’t like that Finchem said a golf tournament is more important than a discriminatory practice.
But I understand where he’s coming from. And I appreciate his candor. If nothing else, he was honest with the “It’s too important” stand. He had guts to say that instead of skirting an issue, as he has done deftly in the past.
It’s too important.
Roll that around and think about it. Here’s what Finchem didn’t say.
It’s too important because Augusta National is full of captains of industry and the PGA Tour asks such captains of industry to write $7 million checks to sponsor Tour events.
It’s too important because Tour players probably would revolt if their organization suddenly said the Masters no longer would be an official-money event.
It’s too important because Augusta National donates a lot of money to The First Tee, one of the Tour’s babies.
It’s too important because the Masters is arguably the most popular tournament on the Tour schedule.
So score one for the importance of power and money.