Reporting Taylor Zarzour
Billy Payne is the Chairman of the most prestigious Golf Club in the world. Augusta National is in a league of its own. Bigger than St. Andrew’s in Scotland, Pine Valley in New Jersey, or Pebble Beach in Northern California. Payne is held responsible for bringing the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta, yet being Chairman of the place that holds The Masters seems to bring more scrutiny. The outside world wants to know why the place is so exclusive. Why is Payne the only one that speaks for the Club? And here’s the big one: why won’t they allow female members? Personally, I feel that since its a private club it should be up to its members on how they conduct their business. We can all make suggestions, but its up to the Club on what they deem is best.
Still I was amused at how many reporters tried to ask Payne about membership in different, creative ways during his Wednesday media availability. By my count he fielded eleven different questions regarding Augusta National’s membership restrictions. That’s more than usual due primarily to IBM’s new president, Ginni Rometty. IBM is an advertising partner of Augusta National and its not uncommon for top executives to be extended an invitation.
Yet, Payne wouldn’t address the topic. He said ” all issues of membership are now and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the members, and that statement remains accurate and remains my statement.” When pressed again Payne quickly said “once again, that deals with a membership issue, and I’m not going to answer it.” Finally, one scribe went as far to ask Payne “what would you say to granddaughters? And later again asked “what would you suggest I tell my daughters?” Payne didn’t gave an inch, saying “my conversations with my granddaughters are also personal.” As for what to tell the reporter’s daughters, Payne said ” I don’t know your daughters.”
Augusta National Golf Club is almost certainly the most beautiful golf course in the world. The commitment exhibited by its members and staff to that standard very well could be unmatched. And its my opinion that no sporting event treats its customers (media included) more hospitably than this place. Yet on Wednesday its Chairman was put under the spotlight about what Augusta National doesn’t do. As usual, he wouldn’t budge.