For all the beauty of the course, all the (some might say nauseating) romanticism surrounding it, Augusta National Golf Club doesn’t have the finest record of advancing out of the dark ages. The debate over the club not allowing female members has been going on for years. The Masters didn’t have a black player until 1975. And one incident last night – even if it was an honest, if still egregious, mistake – won’t do the club’s image any favors.
That incident: Tara Sullivan, a columnist for the Record (N.J.) newspaper, was trying to access the locker room for interviews after yesterday’s final round (South African Charl Schwartzel played brilliantly down the stretch to win the tournament; we should probably say something about that)…and was denied by a security guard. She wasn’t happy. She shouldn’t have been. She tweeted this:
Bad enough no women members at Augusta. But not allowing me to join writers in locker room interview is just wrong.
“It was a complete misunderstanding by tournament week security and you should have rightfully been given access per the standard practices of major sporting events.”
And amazingly, the “tournament week security” responsible for the “misunderstanding” was a woman. Sullivan recounted her interaction with the guard in a column from last night (that’s one quick turnaround time):
At the final portion of the hallway, the one that ended at the locker room door, I was told by a female security officer that I was not allowed in.
I asked the security woman again why they had such a policy, and she told me it was because there was an open bathroom area in the locker room. My response was, “yes, just like all of the pro locker rooms I routinely go into.”
She apologized for the rule, saying it was not her policy, while insisting that the male security guard at the next doorway would bar me also.
In defense of Augusta National, this does appear to be an isolated mistake (fellow female sportswriters Christine Brennan and Melanie Hauser testified that they’d been allowed in the locker room before). In non-defense of Augusta National, security personnel should be clear on the rules…and what exactly does it say about the club that this woman thought those were the rules?
Of course, in addition to the solidarity with Sullivan shown by many, there were also a few (and we’ll emphasize again: a few, this was the minority viewpoint) predictable, tired protests that she, and those who sympathized with her, were just “whining.”
While once again we should make clear that this was not the most widely-shared opinion, the fact that anyone at all accused Sullivan of whining is just wrong, because her response constituted anything but. She got in a small dig at Augusta’s membership policy, then said that being denied access to the locker room was wrong. On this, the Masters itself agreed with her.
Additionally, Sullivan shared Ethun’s response to her in short order, despite, as she said, being on deadline for another column in addition to the one we linked earlier (this one was about the Sunday collapse of third-round leader Rory McIlroy).
Additionally, far from taking a “woe is me” stance, Sullivan focused only on the positive aspects of the response she received:
If I thanked all you awesome tweeps for your support, I’d be up all night. Up to Augusta to make sure employees know policy from now on.
…and in that vein, we’ll do the same. What happened to Sullivan was wrong, but as Brennan said, Augusta National said it would investigate the matter, so there’s not much more to say there. More than a few people said that what happened to Sullivan yesterday would ultimately prove great for her career. We’re inclined to agree, but not because she’s trying to cash in on her 15 minutes of fame. Rather, it’s because suddenly stuck in a firestorm of controversy, Sullivan handled it the best way possible – with a level head.