April 6th, 2012
03:06 PM ET

Letters to the President #1173: 'The women's tee'

Reporter's Note: President Obama seems to like golfing. I hope he likes my letters.

Dear Mr. President,

This kerfuffle over Augusta National Golf Club remaining closed to female membership has made me think a bit over the past few days about exclusivity. As a father of two girls (like you) I can certainly understand why a “men only” sign makes some women plenty mad. No one likes being told “go away, you’re not wanted here.” Couple that with long issues of discrimination based on class, gender, race, age, and other factors; and I can see how another layer of frustration and disappointment gets added on.

Personally, I have never liked exclusivity except that which is based on merit. I would not mind, for example, a golf club that was open only to people who could routinely shoot an 80 or under. Actually, considering how much bad players can slow down progress all over a course that might make a lot of practical sense.

If I were in charge of Augusta, I would open membership to women in a heartbeat. I’d also probably make it a public course, but that’s because I’ve never much cared for the generally exclusive air of so many golf clubs. But, you know, I’m not in charge, and I don’t imagine myself the great decider about such matters.

I readily accept that other people don’t agree with me. I have been aware my whole life that certain people enjoy separating themselves from the masses in a variety of exclusionary ways. Sometimes it is because of their background, or income, or ethnicity, or religion, or... well, you name it. The mere fact that these people see the world differently, and want it divided according to their views, does not de facto make them evil or even wrong in a grand cosmic sense. They may be wrong in my eyes, or your eyes, or someone else’s eyes, but as long as we as an overall culture are not in agreement over how to address such issues, I think we have to tread carefully about how harshly we judge such folks. I am sure there are plenty of souls in our country of 300-million who vehemently want Augusta to stay male only and are furious at any suggestion otherwise.

So what is the solution? How do we as a society grapple with issues like this, where time honored practices seem to have fallen so out of step with our modern view of ourselves? I have full respect for people who try to tackle such matters head on with protests, and demands, and sometimes lawsuits. But my suspicion is that usually when an institution sticks to an outdated or unfair course, if society ultimately deems it as such, they will soon enough either change their ways or pay a price anyway. In that sense, punishment and the remedy are automatic, whether or not protests are ever heeded.

That may not be soon enough to satisfy immediate critics. But I am convinced in the long run it will be effective, just as I am relatively certain, because of such forces, at some point not terribly far down the line Augusta will be open to women.

Just a few thoughts heading into the weekend. Call if you can. Want to go golfing?


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