AUGUSTA, Ga. — When Lyn DeMar showed up for a Sunday morning tee time at a private club in Des Moines, Iowa, two years ago, she was in for a surprise.
So was the club.
The club had assumed that DeMar was a man, and that was a problem because women were not permitted on the course before noon on Sundays. Club officials eventually acquiesced, allowing DeMar’s group to slip quietly off the back nine, but it was a jarring experience for her because it was the first time, she says, that her gender limited her playing privileges on a golf course.
The near-snub didn’t sit well with DeMar, who recalled the story at Wednesday's practice round at the 76th Masters. So perhaps it’s not all that surprising where she comes down on Augusta National Golf Club's refusal to admit female members.
“I think it’s time for a change,” she said while seated at a picnic table near the merchandise pavilion. “What do you think, honey?”
The question was directed at her husband, Ray, who was seated beside her, listening attentively.
“Rules are rules,” Ray said. “They have longstanding traditions here, and I don’t think they should change [their policy] simply because we’re in a different time, a different era.”
There’s plenty golf fans can agree upon when it comes to Augusta National: it’s beautiful, it’s green, it serves cheap beer during Masters week. Far removed from that list is the club’s all-male membership, which in the run-up to this week's tournament has once again surfaced as a flash point for controversy. (On Wednesday morning club chairman Billy Payne fielded a series of pointed questions from the media over the club’s refusal to discuss its membership policy.) Indeed, in a highly unscientific poll of six men and six women taken during Wednesday’s practice round, fans’ opinions were as varied as the flora behind the 13th green.
“Women are running for president,” said Elva Graham of Scottsdale, Ariz., alluding to former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. “Yes, it’s time they let a woman into Augusta.”
Her friend, Carolyn Murphy, was seated next to her in a green Masters chair by the 18th green. “What’s going to happen when there’s a transgender CEO?” she pondered, only half-joking. “Then what?”
Chairman Payne, care to comment?
Four of the six women polled agreed it was time to fit a lady for a green jacket, but two did not.
“You have to respect the club for not caving,” said Sherry Summers, who runs a hair salon in Augusta. “I commend them for standing their ground and for not being politically correct. Nobody does that today.”
“It’s a private club,” she went on, emphasizing the word private. “They can do whatever they want to do.”
Rebecca Bradley, a former LPGA pro who now runs her own business in Dallas, likened Augusta National to her Bible study group: a tight-knit cluster of like-minded souls who deeply trust one another. She went on to ponder how the vibe might have been different at the Last Supper if one of the disciples had been female.
“I’m just saying,” Bradley said, leaving her scenario open to interpretation.
Up by the first tee, a 68-year-old retired banker from South Carolina waited for a friend under rapidly darkening skies.
“If I was on the governing board, I’d vote to let a woman in,” said the man, who declined to provide his name. He stressed, though, that it’s not a straightforward decision given the club’s history and decades-old traditions.
“Augusta’s got a big problem PR-wise,” he said. “They can’t win.”