- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Not one of the 300 members of the Augusta National Golf Club is a woman.

The private club probably does not have a member of Middle Eastern origins either.

Or a Lumbee Indian.

Kelvin Sampson, the basketball coach at Oklahoma, is a well-known Lumbee Indian who led the Sooners to the Final Four last spring, according to the flood of investigative news reports filed at the time.

Hootie Johnson, Augusta National's chairman, is unrepentant, defiant, ever committed to preserving his ultra-exclusive, well-heeled, mostly white male private preserve.

Call up the Justice Department. Call out the National Guard.

Can we please knock down the gates to Augusta National and land a woman on those hallowed grounds, preferably a homeless woman who is bipolar and multilingual? No? Darn. Just asking.

Private clubs are inclined to do as they please, by whatever demographics, interests and causes they deem important. If it were not this way, they no longer would be as private or as exclusive. That is their purported value, their essence, private women's clubs included.

Martha Burk, the hard-charging head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, has been ignoring this fundamental point during her highly public battle with Johnson and Augusta National. Hear her roar. She wants Augusta National to open its door to women, if not a handicapped woman or two, because a handicapped woman would solve two tenets of inclusion.

The same goes for private women's clubs. How many have at least a token one-legged man, black or white, on their membership rolls? One-legged men, black or white, have feelings, too. Just give one-legged men a chance.

It is not easy keeping score around exclusive private clubs, especially if the club is obligated to meet an outside group's definition of private and exclusive.

Why does Augusta National hate women so?

The question has been given a thorough airing this summer, the air stale, the principals out of breath.

Oddly, no one has been championing the cause of Allah's followers. This has gone largely unnoticed, perhaps because the powers that be are consigned to taking it one barrier at a time.

In a better world, however, Augusta National would have at least one member of Middle Eastern descent, possibly even an operative of al Qaeda. Of course, if the operative objected to a particular hole, he might blow it up. Many of the golfers on the PGA Tour usually only threaten to blow up incredibly troublesome holes.

If Augusta National is destined to become a less exclusive club, and it undoubtedly will happen over Johnson's dead body, the club might as well go for it.

You open the club to a woman today, and in a couple of years, an Asian man will be railing against the club's discriminatory policies. Augusta National needs an Asian man. A Latino man, too.

Sting's man from the tropical rain forest also would make an interesting candidate, assuming he would be willing to learn to play golf with the small dinner plate lodged in his mouth.

There are all kinds of private clubs that could use more diversity, as long as you subscribe to the conditioned response of the new millennium. The response carries a do-not-notice sign on one side of the door and a note to celebrate the differences on the other side, with the full complement of hyphens. The more hyphens, the merrier.

Augusta National is no different from many private clubs, just a convenient target because of the Masters, the best golf tournament there is. Augusta National does not admit 99.99999 percent of the American population into its inner sanctum, for whatever it is worth, which apparently is a lot to those monitoring the anatomical makeup of the .00001 percent there. They can't beat the publicity, the validation, however adolescent-like the quest.

The wailers could consider the grown-up philosophy of Groucho Marx.

"I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member," he once said.

That is pretty sound advice.

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