Why Augusta said 'get lost' to the NCWO

One man's view of the Masters and the 'Misses'

Frank Hannigan
Tue, 10 Sep 2002
Why Augusta said 'get lost' to the NCWO

Frank Hannigan has been a central figure in golf for more than four decades and has specifically asked if Golfmagic will give him the opportunity to respond to the current wrangle between the National Council of Women’s Organisations and the Augusta National Golf Club which hosts the US Masters every April.
Why Augusta said 'get lost' to the NCWO
Frank Hannigan.

He was a staff member of the United States Golf Association for 28 years, culminating in his being its executive director. After retirement in l989 he says he ‘contrived a second career as a golf writer and broadcaster,’ his clients being the principal US golf magazines and the TV network ABC.

Mr. Hannigan has won many golf-writing awards and is now retired, but says he’s currently struggling toward the publication of a memoir - "Guilty of Golf."

A member of the R&A, he’s often linked with his friend and all-too-frequent house guest, Peter Alliss. We are delighted to give him the opportunity to comment exclusively.

AMERICA'S richest and most powerful newspapers consider a sports event especially worthy if an event can be presented as an act of social engineering. A New York Times reporter sent to a dog show is likely to come back with a story calling attention to a bit of racism - a white dog sniffing a brown dog.

This explains the media furore over a demand by an entity known as the National Council of Women’s Organisations that the Augusta National, a males-only golf club that runs the Masters Tournament, accept female members prior to next April’s US Masters – or else.

The Augusta club, predictably, has essentially said "get lost", going to the extreme of eliminating its three television sponsors. US corporations can be cowardly, so when one of the three, Coca Cola, sent word to the club expressing concern that some woman, somewhere, might switch to Pepsi, Augusta National simply cancelled all television commercials.

The Masters television policy has been to confine commercials to four minutes per hour. By comparison, the (British) Open as seen on a US network is poisoned by as much as 12 minutes per hour. Meanwhile, the same event is seen on the BBC with no commercials. American viewers next year will be the beneficiaries of a rare but happy outcome of the Law of Unexpected Consequences.

In truth, the NCWO is no colossus. It has l60 members, a mix of centre-to-left women’s groups who pay modest dues to support a small staff in Washington, D.C. for the general purpose of reminding congress that women vote. Right-wing women, like Phyllis Schaafly, the most notable of anti-abortion activists, would not be seen dead with the NCWO,

The sports TV critic for USA Today described the NCWO as having six million members. No it doesn’t. Its l50 members may have a total of six million individual members, many of whom don’t know or care -- about the issue of Augusta membership.

As an old bureaucrat, I sense the following: the ‘chair’ of the NCWO, thinking she had an unmissable target, like going after a pinata with a wedge, attacked, very likely sending a copy to her board so as to send the signal "Look at me! Ain’t I doing good?"

I would love to see all the reactions of NCWO organisations to their sudden notoriety.

Many, you can be sure, are of the nature "Why are you wasting our time and money on this nonsense?"

I can’t envision a picket line on Washington Avenue in Augusta manned by members of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America or The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action (NARAL,)

Any attack should be preceded by at least a minimal understanding of the enemy.

NCWO’s ‘Chair’ failed this standard by suggesting that the Masters be moved to another site – the equivalent of proposing that Wimbledon be moved, say, to the Isle of Man.

The media will fan the flames until diverted by another fantasy. The New York Times, in its front page story, told breathlessly how less than l0% of Augusta National’s members are black, in a sentence that would have been equally accurate but less slanted had it been written :"Augusta National has six black members – more than any other rich golf club in these United States."

The plush golf magazines will also milk the story endlessly. The one thing they will not say is that, in support of NCWO, they will eliminate their special Masters editions next spring – those issues being their most lucrative.

An inflamed columnist for the Atlanta Constitution did her Joan of Arc number by quoting Margaret Mead, the legendary anthropologist, who knew a thing or two about our species, on the subject of how a tiny number of advocates can launch a movement that sweeps the world.

What the Atlanta writer did not know was that Margaret Mead was once asked how she felt about men’s clubs. Dr. Mead said they serve a purpose and that she did not object to their existence at all.