Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. At least, that's what Billy Payne, Chairman of the men-only Augusta National Golf Club hopes will happen. He's just released a statement regarding the controversy of his golf club's refusal to admit women: there is no statement. Talking about it is against the rules. Everyone just be quiet and forget any of this even happened. Golfing is like the Fight Club in that way, but with significantly less Brad Pitt torso.

Here's the skinny, in case you haven't been following along: The Augusta National Golf Club is the site of the Masters tournament, one of four major championships in professional golf, a pasttime reserved for absurdly wealthy men and their pink sleeveless polo shirt-wearing wives. It's like yachting for people who refuse to be seen in public in beachwear. Outdoor adventures for the dyspeptic and camping phobic. Very rich people, Romney Family Reunion type stuff.

Anyway, Augusta's existed since the 1930's, and while there's no rule on the books explicitly prohibiting women from joining, they've never admitted a woman as a member. In fact, it took them until 1990 to admit one black guy, so, if you're looking for a progressive, with-it kind of organization for the 21st century, you'd have about as much luck finding it at Augusta as you would finding a dick pic on Hillary Clinton's cell phone.

Augusta's caught flack for its refusal to admit women in the past. In 2003, Martha Burk of NOW protested the club, and then-Chairman who was named Hootie Johnson (that's a real name of a person who exists that I absolutely did not just make up) told protesters that he wouldn't be "bullied" into allowing women to join. Hootie and his blow hards have continued stonewalling the ladies to this very day. And that's where shit gets complicated.


One of the Masters Tournament sponsors, IBM, has recently named Ginni Rometty, woman, as its CEO, even though women have been known to do nutty things like have babies and throw tampons at their enemies and ruin sports by standing around in anything but cheerleader outfits near where they're being played. Four previous IBM CEOs have been granted club membership, but they were all men. Payne hasn't indicated that he'd be offering membership to Rometty, and now it looks like he's not going to and he wants everyone to just leave well enough alone and let him and his friends have their weird all-dude club in peace. Earlier today, he said,

All issues of membership remain the private deliberations of the membership. That statement remains accurate. We don't talk about our private deliberations. We especially don't talk about them when a named candidate is a part of the question.


See? Just like Fight Club, except not cool.

Anyway, some time after that press conference non-statement, the Masters teed off with polite, appreciative crowd noises and wrinkly spectator necks. And no one's flinched.


But this doesn't have to be over, nor should it be. In fact, if IBM wanted to show it was a progressive, socially forward company, it would use this opportunity to take a stand, says Mark DiMassimo, CEO of DIGO Brands. Augusta has nothing to lose in continuing to bar women from being admitted, he explains, because it's a place that's steeped in tradition and status quo. But IBM, a technology company, by remaining a sponsor of the event, it's lashing itself to an old stogy image. Hardly something a progressive company should want to embrace.

"I'd like to see (IBM) take an activist position on this," said DiMassimo. "They're big enough that they have a responsibility to be responsible."


People embracing new technology aren't the same people who are desperately clinging for an old school club that only admits men, and IBM should do the right thing here and reexamine its affiliation with an old fashioned outfit that's being left behind by progress. IBM: Just Like The Old Days doesn't sound like a motto that would sell many PC's.

Augusta National Chairman Payne Won't Address Female Membership [Bloomberg]