The club has historically invited the chief executive officer of IBM, one of three Masters sponsors, to join the organization.
As Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club prepares to host the Masters competition next week, it faces a quandary: The club hasn’t admitted a woman as a member since its founding eight decades ago, yet it has historically invited the chief executive officer of IBM, one of three Masters sponsors, to join the organization.
Since the company named Ginni Rometty to the post this year, Augusta will have to break tradition either way, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
IBM holds a rarefied position at the Augusta, Ga., course. The company has a hospitality cabin near the 10th hole, beside co-sponsors Exxon Mobil Corp. and AT&T Inc. The companies’ male CEOs have been able to don the club’s signature green member blazers while hosting clients. Non-members, who don’t wear the jackets, must be accompanied by a member to visit the course or play a round.
Augusta, which owns and hosts the Masters, sets its own rules as a private club and has resisted calls for change in the past. Augusta didn’t have a black member until 1990, when it extended an invitation to Gannett Co. television President Ron Townsend, who still belongs.
Rometty, who does play golf, though not frequently, inherited the sponsorship from predecessor Sam Palmisano. IBM is featured in the tournament’s TV commercials and runs its website, mobile-phone applications and media-center technology.
Palmisano serves on Augusta’s technology tournament committee. He remains IBM’s chairman – a role Rometty is likely also to assume upon his retirement.
Steve Ethun, a Masters Tournament spokesman, declined to comment, citing a policy that forbids membership-related discussions. Edward Barbini, a spokesman for IBM, also declined to comment.language