British Open now on the clock in men-only debate

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ATLANTA (AP) - Let’s all welcome Augusta National to the 21st century.

And don’t stop there.

Hey, British Open, you’re on the clock now.

The home of the Masters is opening its doors to women members, a move so momentous they actually acknowledged it happened. You see, the gentlemen in green _ and I guess we’ll have to start saying the ladies in green, too _ normally spend about as much time talking about the inner workings of their club as they do about the zillions of dollars they rake in every year on golf’s first major championship.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore were invited to join what was once the nation’s most exclusive fraternity. While no keg party was planned, club chairman Billy Payne did release a statement Monday calling it a “joyous occasion,” which of course raised the question:

What took `em so long?

“It’s about (expletive) time,” said Alison Piepmeier, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. “We have come so far in terms of just basic equality. To still have a major sports institution that thought it was appropriate and acceptable to exclude women was just anachronistic. It was ridiculous. I’m glad they finally decided that was the case.”

There’s more work to be done.

On the other side of the Atlantic, where this quirky little game actually started and the sport’s oldest major championship is held every summer, they’ve got their own gender issues.

The next British Open will be at Muirfield, which is men only. The resistance to women is epitomized by a tale passed down through the years _ who knows if it’s actually true or not _ that there was once a break-in at the clubhouse, but they wouldn’t let the police inside because a female officer showed up to investigate.

Chuckle, chuckle.

Only one problem.

This is no laughing matter.

Not anymore.

It’s been a decade since Martha Burk first brought up the issue of male-only membership at Augusta National (though, admittedly, her efforts were received largely with a collective yawn and a pithy quote from former chairman Hootie Johnson). But at least the club took this landmark step before we marked an entire century of women having the right to vote in this country.

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