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Never Too Late to Do the Right Thing - One Observer's Take on Darla & Condi
Congratulations to Billy Payne and those involved in finally admitting two women, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, to become members of Augusta National Golf Club. It's never too late to do the right thing. Augusta National knows the trends and its responsibilities.
Although the total number of golfers and the number of rounds played in the U.S. continues to decline, women golfers and, especially, young junior golfers are the sweet spot in the golf industry. They are the only segments showing an increase in golf participation based on information from the National Golf Foundation.
It's "O.K" for girls to be athletes and that includes playing golf! The players on the LPGA Tour are presenting strong and positive images of women's golf, and I haven't even mentioned the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program or First Tee - generously supported by Augusta National - with girls accounting for about one-third of its participants.
It's been 40 years since the U.S. Congress passed Title IX, which requires educational institutions that accept federal funds must have comparable athletic programs for both men and women. Forty years is almost two generations. We are seeing the impact of Title IX standards of "comparability" in the children of the first generation of Title IX beneficiaries.
Indeed, Augusta National has tremendous power and influence. The time had come for Augusta to reinforce the message that golf is also a game for women and girls. It's not just for men.
And, it may have been increasingly awkward for Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour, to continue defending the club's male-only policy while demanding anti-discrimination policies from other tournaments played on the PGA Tour. And the PGA of America now has two women on its board of directors and a strategic push for women's golf.
Augusta National needed to create that illusive tipping-point to increase awareness and legitimacy for women's golf and uphold the "democracy" of the game. And they have!
Of course, I know the accomplishments of our former Secretary of State, and the name "Darla Moore" rang a bell with me. In the 1990s when I was an assistant general counsel in the legal department of Prudential Financial and heading up its portfolio of mortgages on then-bankrupt department stores, such as Macy's, I heard about this top female bankruptcy expert, Darla Moore.
Twenty years ago, when women were concerned that they "blended" in to a male environment, Moore chose not to. She dressed fashionably, kept her blonde hair and, if my memory serves me right, wore red nail polish and stylish shoes.
Moore is an expert in her field and unique. And the same can be said for Rice. They are good choices for Augusta National, a very elite and private club of accomplished people. That is not to imply in any way that there are not many other women who would fit in perfectly at Augusta. Hopefully, there will be more.
But one of the first questions that popped into my mind upon hearing the news was: "Are Condi and Darla good golfers?" Even important male CEOs with 36 handicaps are probably not invited to become an Augusta National member.
And the answer is: Rice is a member of the Women's Northern California Golf Association and, as of August 15th, has a USGA Handicap Index of 12.1. (This is public information available on ghin.com, a handicap website sponsored by the United States Golf Association.)
Rice's handicap places her in the top six percent of all female golfers maintaining official handicaps with the USGA. Yes, she is a very good golfer! If she is playing a medium-to-difficult course from the forward tees, on a good day she will probably always shoot in low-80s.
I could not find Moore's handicap information, but given her approach to most things, I am confident she is also a very good player.
And the next question that popped into my mind was: "Does Augusta National have any forward tees or will the two new female members play from the 6,000-yard-plus members tees?" I am assuming that neither will routinely choose to play from the 7,400-yard Masters blocks.
I made a couple of calls and it's my understanding that at this time there are not official "forward" tees at Augusta. But the custom has been that female guests of members - and now female members - usually start a hole at the front of the members' tees. If that is where Rice plays from, my guess is that on a good day she will score in the mid-80s. That's good golf!
What is also good is that Augusta National from the members' tees is a relatively friendly course. In other words, there are no long carries over water, ravines or fescue grasses that require super-long tee or fairway shots. Strategy is what matters, and I am confident that both women understand golf-course strategy.
Augusta's two new members will be making news all over the U.S. and internationally as well. One TV commentator referred to it Monday, August 20th, as an "historic day for golf." I think that may be a bit of exaggeration. It's important to remember that Augusta National is a private club and will continue to have the right to only admit members they choose to admit. Who knows when they will invite another female to join?
The vast majority of Americans, including me, will continue to play golf at public and semiprivate courses or at the declining number of private courses. But wherever women choose to play, we must be welcomed into the game by friendly and helpful golf professionals and managers. Even though our numbers are growing, women and girls still represent only about 22 percent of all golfers over the age of six in the U.S. Let's keep growing the game for women.
Thank you, Augusta National, for opening the door - even if just a crack - so that more women and girls can play more golf. As I like to remind women: Be Healthy, Be Happy, Live Longer, Play Golf.
Nancy Berkley, President of Berkley Golf Consulting, is an expert on women's golf and junior-girls golf. She is a frequent contributor to www.cybergolf.com/womensgolf. Her book, "Women Welcome Here! A Guide to Growing Women's Golf," published by the National Golf Foundation, is an industry reference on marketing golf to women and spotting trends within the industry. She offers information and advice about the golf industry on www.berkleygolfconsulting.com and is often quoted in national publications. She was a contributing editor of "Golf for Women" magazine and a founding advisor of "Golfer Girl Magazine." Her interviews with women in the golf industry now appear on www.golfergirlcareers.com. Nancy lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University and Rutgers Law School. After a business and legal career, she decided to write about the game she learned and loved as a teenager. She describes herself as a good bogey golfer with permanent potential.
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