Augusta National Golf Course, home of the Masters, does not allow women to become members of the all-male club. Female relatives and friends of male members can play on the golf course for the standard fee.
But Martha Burk, president of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, smells a rat. The rat is Augusta Chairman Hootie Johnson–the ringleader of the good ol’ boys.
Johnson has refused to allow female members at his club.
When Burk threatened to boycott the Masters’ corporate sponsors, Johnson cancelled all sponsorship of the tournament and declared the Masters’ would air on television commercial-free. At this year’s British Open, Tiger Woods responded to Johnson’s move by saying, “It would be nice to see everyone have an equal chance to participate, but there is nothing you can do about it.” Last week in Orlando, Tiger added, “Do I want to see a female member? Yes. But it’s our right to have any club set up the way we want to.”
So, there is nothing we can do about the Masters, Tiger? I guess the National Council of Women’s Organizations must admit defeat, because no one can change the fixed social patterns of Augusta National. Maybe the woman’s place really is in the kitchen, not the clubhouse.
But there is something we can do, Tiger, and it’s called Mount Plymouth Country Club.
After a nine-year, neighborhood-shattering struggle against the leaders of Alaqua Country Club, my dad decided to cancel his membership at what our family thought was an elitist institution. Since then, he has been traveling across Central Florida, playing a series of courses. It was on one such sojourn with my father that I realized golf wasn’t just for the Hootie Johnsons of the world.
About 45 minutes from downtown Orlando, one may find a small town called Mt. Plymouth. Once a thriving resort town of golf courses and European-style hotels, Mt. Plymouth has evolved into what people call a “Podunk town.” I used this term the other day in a conversation with a New Yorker, who thought Podunk was a new type of Nike sneaker. Instead, think Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Mt. Plymouth is now home to farm stands, government apartment complexes, and 20-year-old pick-up trucks with those oh-so-clever bumper stickers “My child beat-up your honor student.” The neighboring town was home to the “vampire killings” in the middle 1990s, where kids living in a Podunk town had nothing better to do then dress up as vampires and kill their parents.
In the middle of this all is Mt. Plymouth Country Club.
You may be asking yourself, “A golf club? In the middle of NASCAR heaven?” Mt. Plymouth “CC,” as my father fondly calls it, is a leftover relic of an age long past. The golf course was created in the image of historic St. Andrew’s in Scotland, which is a frequent host for the British Open. In the 1930s, American presidents and outlaw Al Capone vacationed and golfed in Mt. Plymouth. Yet all that remains is a tattered 18-hole course, where there are more dogs than golfers.
Mt. Plymouth is a far cry from the $18,000-a-year Alaqua Golf Club or Augusta National Golf Course; my dad and I walked onto the course for a mere $10 each. The course is populated by retirees from Michigan and New Jersey in the morning, a few high school students in the afternoon, and shirtless hacks in the twilight.
Soon, we became familiar with the manager of the golf course. His wife, daughter and sons run the entire enterprise, from cashiering to collecting range balls.
Who needs stuffy country clubs with their elitist memberships, fake friendships, corny Labor Day picnics, and black-tie affairs, when you have Mount Plymouth CC?
Here is what we can do Tiger: Abandon the Augusta Nationals and the Alaqua Country Clubs of the world. The American public should not support these institutions. Play at public courses, places where women can actually become members. Let the rich worry about the greens fees at clubs where annual membership dues are higher than my annual tuition.
Leave Augusta to its own devices. By publicly boycotting the Masters, our message will be heard. Sports are not just for the rich WASPs, the Hootie Johnsons, the good ol’ boys. Golf is for the masses — the Dale Hansons of the world.
Now, Alaqua is begging former members to return, including papa Hanson. They realize they destroyed the neighborhood. But it’s too little, too late.
This isn’t about feminism, but about the struggle of righting wrongs. But we can’t be alone. The professional golfers must lead.