The Masters: Billy Payne Should Not Be Chastising Tiger Woods

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2010

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 07:  William Porter 'Billy' Payne, the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, talks to members of the media during a press conference prior to the 2010 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 7, 2010 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne spent several minutes chastising Tiger Woods during his Wednesday afternoon press conference.

“As he ascended in our rankings of the world’s great golfers, he became an example to our kids that success is directly attributable to hard work and effort,” Payne said. “But as he now says himself, he forgot in the process to remember that with fame and fortune comes responsibility, not invisibility. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here; it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.”

Ok, fair enough.  Woods did disappoint a lot of people, including many young kids who had previously looked up to him as a role model.  

However, there’s just one glaringly obvious problem with this statement—it’s coming from Billy Payne, the chairman of a golf club that does not allow women membership privileges and only admitted their first black member in 1990.  To this day, the number black members at Augusta National can be counted on one hand.

Heck, if Tiger Woods were not a golfer and four-time Masters champion, it's highly doubtful that he'd even be considered for membership at Augusta National.

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Let’s refer back to several portions of Payne’s statement—“with fame and fortune comes responsibility… Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children.”

Mr. Payne, how do you explain to your children and grandchildren that their wives, no matter how hard they work or how successful they may be, will never be allowed to join Augusta National Golf Club?

How do you look at all of those underprivileged children in the eyes and pose for a few PR photographs while knowing all the while that your golf club has less than five minority members and is by no means chomping at the bit to admit any more?

How to you pose for pictures with underprivileged little girls while knowing that you are the head of a golf club that in this modern era of equality shrugs off women membership as some kind of a joke?

The content of Payne’s statement was, for the most part, correct.

However, the source of that content—Billy Payne—is what ultimately renders this statement worthless.

Had this come from, say, the Pope, it would be respected.

Towards the end of Payne’s press conference he was asked the following question, “Clearly responsibility and role models and doing the right thing is a big part of your life, there's no doubt about that, even with the Atlanta Olympics that you ran, especially regarding women; the women's Olympics with many of the sports that started and grew and had a terrific run in Atlanta. With that in mind, what, if any, responsibility does Augusta National have to reach out and open its arms to women in any way, shape or form in the game of golf?”

Payne stuttered for several seconds while nervous sweat beads could be seen gathering on his forehead before finally answering with, “Well, we don't—the tens of millions of dollars we have contributed to the growth of the game through the years, I think has certainly helped with both men's and women's golf. I think the rest of that may be a membership kind of issue, Christine. [Wry smile] As you know, those are subject to the private deliberations of the Members.”

How are we meant to respect a statement chastising Tiger Woods when it comes from a man who heads up a club which imposes rules that completely defy our most basic moral obligation—equality?  

For more Masters news, insight and analysis, visit The Tour Report .