The over blown row about the all-male Augusta National Golf Club generated almost as much editorial mileage here in the UK as the Masters' Championship staged there. Candidly, it gave me a pain where I should have pleasure: political correctness always has that effect on me. I tend to switch off when such misguided campaigners use major events to ride a fashionable hobby horse but in this instance, because golf is involved, a response is appropriate.
Doubtless I'll be contravening some newly-designated law or other and will probably find myself prosecuted or ostracised but, having been thrown into jail for journalistic activity, I'm impervious to crooked cops, insults and threatening letters....
So here goes. My message to the do-gooders is simple: don't try to tell the Augusta National members how to run their club: it has nothing to do with you so get off their backs!
There. That feels better already.
The essence of this is quite simple, really. The club in question is a private members' club, indeed membership is by invitation only. How the members run it is their concern. It has nothing to do with outsiders who are permitted onto the premises once a year to cover an event for which the course and the club were founded back in 1934. We should be grateful they stage the Masters, not critical of them for no good reason, least of all for their attitudes to female membership.
Over my 56 years in the golf writing business I've been a member of ten golf clubs around the world, from Bermuda to Britain to Australia, so I believe I speak with authority on the subject.
Here's the crux: With each acceptance I signed a membership agreement that included my promise to abide by and honour the constitution of the club. Implicit in this, I agreed that I wouldn't campaign to change the club's rules on a whim, or even with good intent. That was the deal and I lived by it. Still do.
Such rules were written for good reasons, mainly involving tradition and sound management. In many cases the rules have achieved their aims for upwards of a century. Fiddle with them and you'll have no complaint if you're requested to resign. That's the way things work.
So if individual members are bound by such rules by what right do outsiders perceive they can rip up a club's constitution on a politically correct whim? In essence, their ramblings on the subject were so much editorial bull dust.
This point was endorsed for me by one self-righteous, non-golfing commentator, for The Times of all journals, who referred to the championship as "hitting a ball the size of a champagne cork around a field." Which says everything about his attitude to and knowledge of a game that dates to the early 15th century, to say nothing of recent golfing history and the beginnings of Augusta National. With luck this character won't be invited again next year. Doubtless he will be pontificating at length if this proves to be the case... Poetic, what?
I would love to become a member of Augusta National but my chances are comparable to a snowball in hell. That said, I would have no wish to campaign editorially or harangue the club president in public to achieve my goal. To do so would be both ungentlemanly and insulting.
I recall an Open Championship at Royal Birkdale some years ago when an androgynous female reporter complained bitterly because she wasn't allowed into the players' locker room to conduct interviews. One leading player, holding his daily post-round conference in the media centre, said he'd be comfortable with that if the lady didn't mind seeing him in the buff as he walked out of the shower....
The potential problems in such a scenario were obvious. Good sense prevailed then. It should in this case. Leave well alone. It's a storm in a T cup that should be ignored. There are more important campaigns waiting to be activated out there....