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Winners & Losers of the 2012 Masters Include IBM CEO Rometty
At the final round of the 2012 Masters, Bubba Watson, a self-taught golfer from Bagdad, Fla., earned his first green jacket after a two-hole sudden-death playoff with Louis Oosthiezen from South Africa. But for some, the winner of the Masters tournament doesn't really matter.
More important was that Augusta National Golf Club apparently did not invite the CEO of IBM Virginia Rometty to become a member of Augusta. Yes, she would have been the first woman member admitted in the unique category of "CEO of a major sponsor." Instead, she was spotted Sunday in the second row behind the 18th green wearing a lovely lavender jacket.
I have written two articles about the simmering gender issue at Augusta in light of its status as a private club its tradition of inviting the CEO's of major sponsors - who have all been men - to become members (see www.cybergolf.com/womensgolf). But what surprised me is the continuing attention the issue received.
It was covered by many U.S. news networks, including special features by Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News and a segment by Erin Burnett on CNN. It also made news in several international publications.
The issue also reached the White House. On Thursday, April 5th, ABC News reported that President Obama and Mitt Romney had weighed in on the subject, noting: "Asked after an event in northeastern Pennsylvania whether he believes the club should permit women members, Romney responded, 'Yes. Well of course. I'm not a member of Augusta. I don't know I would qualify - my golf game is not that good but certainly if I were a member and if I could run Augusta, which isn't likely to happen, but of course I'd have women in Augusta, sure.' "
Earlier Sunday, White House press secretary Jay Carney also weighed in, saying that the president's "personal opinion is that women should be admitted."
John Paul Newport of the Wall Street Journal - Weekend Edition, April 7-8, 2012 - reported, "The pity of all of this [attention to Virgina Rometty] for anyone who loves the Masters is that the issue is beginning to tarnish the tournament, completely apart from any principles involved. And it would be so easy to resolve: hand out a few green jackets to women and be done with it. The change in policy would surely be among the least controversial high-profile decisions in modern times. Here's a quick starter list: Rometty, Hall of Fame golfer Nancy Lopez, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. A subversive group, sure, but sometimes that's what it takes to break down the barricades."
On Sunday, Maureen Dowd, of the New York Times in an op-ed piece titled, "What Would Jesus Do at the Masters?" wrote, "Rometty and other female executives should persuade their companies to cut connections with Augusta until equality blossoms like the course's azaleas."
In my opinion, this issue will hang around IBM for a while. The real irony, however, is the advertising message that IBM chose to use for the Masters' television commercials. The overall corporate message was that the United States must be the "Decade of Smart."
On the masters.com website, IBM posted this message: "We are living in a time of turbulent change, putting pressure on businesses of all sizes and across all industries. The world is also changing, in other fundamental ways. It is becoming smaller, flatter and smarter. As a result, leaders across all types of enterprises are faced with new challenges in order to remain successful. Those organizations who address these challenges are best positioned to outperform in the 'Decade of Smart.' "
Unfortunately, IBM did not get its own message and cannot be counted among the winners Sunday. In spite of Augusta National's grave concern about the declining participation of golfers in the U.S., they can talk the talk but they can't walk the talk.
The jazzy ads IBM produced for the Masters' television viewers were easily confused with those of AT&T's. Which company is into digital? Neither Augusta National nor IBM symbolized a "Decade of Smart." A green jacket for CEO Rometty could have changed that. What a missed opportunity! A bigger question: Will next year be any different? I hope so!
Nancy Berkley, President of Berkley Golf Consulting, is an expert on women's golf and junior-girls golf. She is a frequent contributor to www.cybergolf.com/womensgolf. Her book, "Women Welcome Here! A Guide to Growing Women's Golf," published by the National Golf Foundation, is an industry reference on marketing golf to women and spotting trends within the industry. She offers information and advice about the golf industry on www.berkleygolfconsulting.com and is often quoted in national publications. She was a contributing editor of "Golf for Women" magazine and a founding advisor of "Golfer Girl Magazine." Her interviews with women in the golf industry now appear on www.golfergirlcareers.com. Nancy lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, Harvard University and Rutgers Law School. After a business and legal career, she decided to write about the game she learned and loved as a teenager. She describes herself as a good bogey golfer with permanent potential.