Masters chairman Billy Payne boasted on Wednesday about Augusta National Golf Club's progressive approach to growing the game of golf globally and about pursuing younger participants. He declined at several turns, however, to address whether or not the club will admit a female member now or in the future.
“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,” Payne said, “and that statement remains accurate and remains my statement.”
In a 30-minute press conference that became, at times, heated, Payne repeatedly fended off questions aimed at gaining some insight into the club's deliberations about when or if a female member will be admitted. The issue most famously arose 10 years ago, when Martha Burk, a leading feminist, led protests outside the gates and put pressure on Augusta National's corporate partners to pull their support of the Masters.
The issue has come up again this year because Augusta National has a longstanding corporate relationship with IBM, which provides support for its Web site and media center and is a sponsor of the Masters. The club has traditionally extended an invitation for membership to IBM's CEO. This year, the company's CEO is longtime executive Ginni Rometty, the first woman to hold the spot.
Asked specifically about Rometty, Payne emphasized that individual members or candidates to be members are never discussed publicly.
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