Augusta National will take your questions about female membership, but won't be issuing answers

Mike Hlas
Published: April 4 2012 | 2:02 pm - Updated: 3 April 2014 | 4:10 pm in
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AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The new CEO of IBM is Virginia Rometty.

This matters to some reporters here because IBM is a major corporate sponsor of the Masters, and every man who ever held the job of CEO of IBM has been a member here.

And, because the club has no female members.

So a couple of reporters, most notably Lawrence Donegan of London's The Guardian were asking questions about this matter to Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne Wednesday during Payne's annual Masters press conference. It was kind of comical. There was no way they were going to get an answer, but press on they did, as good reporters do.

Payne didn't like that.

Q. You began talking about a number of the changes that happened here at the course. Since you've been Chairman, all of those changes have been well-documented. One of the changes that has not happened to the Club is the all-male Membership. Wonder if you ever foresee that changing, and why or why not.

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: Well, as has been the case, whenever that question is asked, all issues of Membership are now and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the Members, and that statement remains accurate and remains my statement.

Q. Is it possible to elaborate further on why Membership for Mrs. Rometty wouldn't be considered, just to give us a little more spiel on that.

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: I guess two reasons: One, we don't talk about our private deliberations. No. 2, we especially don't talk about it when a named candidate is a part of the question.

Q. Mr.Chairman, I note your concerns about the growth of golf around the world, and I also note that Augusta National is a very famous golf club. Don't you think it would send a wonderful message to young girls around the world if they knew that one day they could join this very famous golf club?

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: Once again, that deals with a Membership issue, and I'm not going to answer it.

Q. Seems like a mixed message, Billy, is what he's saying. You're throwing a lot of money into growing the game, and yet there's still a perception that certain people are excluded.

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: That is a Membership issue that I'm not going to-- thank you for your--

Q. It sends--

CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Thank you.

Q. It sends a wonderful message to girls around the world that they could join this emblematic golf club; it's not a Membership question.

CHAIRMAN PAYNE:  Thank you for your question, sir.

Q. Mr.Chairman, as a grandfather, what would you say to granddaughters? How would you explain leading a club that does not include female membership?

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: Once again, though expressed quite artfully, I think that's a question that deals with Membership, and--

Q. It's a kitchen-table, personal question.

CHAIRMAN PAYNE: Well, my conversations with my granddaughters are also personal.


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