Martha Burk wanted the Augusta National Golf Club to include women in
its membership. So far, nothing on that front. But if this is any
consolation, she has helped to reorder The Masters as The Greater Augusta Open.
Golf World magazine, which in all likelihood is the only publication
interested in publishing this news, has reported that several companies have
canceled rental house reservations in the Augusta area during Masters Week
and are not planning to hold their annual parties therein.
These companies include Coca-Cola, IBM, Citigroup, Georgia Pacific and
American Express, all of which could afford to hold a party for Methodists
in the Vatican. Thus, we can ignore the possibility that the cost of canapés
has risen in these worrisome economic times. In fact, the stock price for
pigs in a blanket has held firm while tech issues are dying every day and
CEOs are being led off by cops while wearing their overcoats as a hat.
Instead, this is corporate fear at its finest, with the result being
that five months from now, The Masters will be awarding its traditional gray
jacket to the winner.
Now we hold no particular truck with either side of this issue, largely
because we don't care. The rights of oppressed women everywhere are unlikely
to be materially affected by Burk's campaign, yet Masters uberlord Hootie Johnson still ends up coming across as a strap of leather in a suit.
Otherwise intelligent, well-off and sensible people come across like
utter mopes -- why, it's democracy in action.
But when the corporate parties start pulling out, it is an indication
of a sea change outside the ropes, and the end of some of the odd festivity
that is The Masters.
In other words, it is beginning to look like the flower of professional
and amateur golfdom are going to descend on Augusta to play the Greater
Greensboro Open, as catered by a group of breakaway Amish.
Gray jacket? How about gray jacket and a shawl, and the winners trophy
replaced by a butter churn? How about the holes at Augusta National renamed
to fit more in line with the new, austere Masters --- the I Am Unworthy 4th,
Ostentation Is The Enemy Of Our God 8th, and of course, Free Yourselves From
Earthly Wants Or Else, And Can I Get An Amen Corner.
Indeed, there are few things as entertaining as watching The Law Of
Unintended Consequences working at its muscular best, as it is here. Ms.
Burk thought Mr. Hootie would cave under the unassailable logic of her
position. Mr. Hootie thought Ms. Burk would cave under the weight of his
And everyone thought Tiger Woods would take a position on the issue.
And please stop laughing.
What we do know, though, is that neither Ms. Burk nor Mr. Hootie
thought that the real casualty of this war would be the gin fizz.
Of course, none of this will actually affect the golfers themselves.
Their greatness as players is found in their ability to crowd out all other
conditions in search of a clear shot to the green and a true putting line.
The world is someone else's problem, especially during Masters week.
And CBS would sooner give up its portion of the NFL package than let
The Masters go to another network, especially over a fight in which it has a
dog on each side.
But The Masters is more than a golf tournament. It is one of the
principal demonstrations of wealth at leisure this nation has, a look at the
really good life in a town where a Krispy Kreme outlet is no big deal at
And when that wealth starts getting the squirmies, so much so that it
is ducking the best vehicle it has for mining new suckers ... er, clients,
well, something is afoot here.
We're not sure what it is, exactly, but it is changing part of the
character of the tournament, which is exactly what Mr. Hootie doesn't want,
and exactly what Ms. Burk didn't have in mind when she picked this fight.
I mean, a major tournament without corporate parties is not all that
far removed from the city championship at Funkytown Golf Links, Bar &
Grill. And The Masters is far from the FGLB&G city championship as squab is
to chicken on a stick.
At least it was before Prohibition hit town, and the rich folks started
salting their party money away for that Lakers-Kings playoff rematch. At
least there you get some real bang for your boilermaker.
Which, after all, is still the point of giving the rich free passes to
the games, right?
Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com
|Since Martha Burke began lobbying for women to become members at Augusta National Golf Club, clouds have gathered over the once prestine course.||