By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
April 6, 2012
For all its splendor and tradition, one issue that loomed large over this weekend’s Masters tournament was the potential membership of new IBM CEO Virginia Rometty. Augusta National is notorious for having never admitted a female member. However, the club normally extends membership to IBM’s CEO since “Big Blue” is one of its closest corporate partners. Augusta National Chair Billy Payne was asked about the issue at his pre-Masters press conference, but said he won’t talk publicly about private member deliberations.
The club hasn’t bowed in the past to public pressure urging it to allow women members. The most notable case was in 2002, when Martha Burk challenged Augusta National’s policy. The Masters was televised without commercials the following two years.
This time around, the club will have to determine which tradition it values more: all-male membership or a longstanding relationship with IBM. All indications are that it’ll be impossible to sustain both.