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Madden: Real equality could solve Augusta flap

Saturday, December 07, 2002

The Masters controversy is proving one thing beyond doubt: Women will nag endlessly over a totally insignificant point until they get their way. You married fellows likely knew that already.

If Augusta National admits a female member, will it really further a cause? If it would prove a point, then what, exactly, is that point? It's not like equal pay for equal work, or getting the vote. Maybe it's about proving that women, just like men, can have far too much money and free time. Will giving a woman membership to Augusta do anything besides ease Martha Burk's chronic foul mood?

No, it will not.

The next Masters will be played with no sponsors. Every 15 seconds or so, Tiger Woods feels compelled to justify why he's going to play. (Those reasons are, by the way, as follows: it's his job, big cash and prizes for the winner, and he's going for three in a row, toots!).

The New York Times is campaigning strongly on behalf of Ms. Burk, so strongly that it has refused to publish two columns presenting opposing viewpoints, including one by Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist Dave Anderson. The Times says it is not trying to censor opposing viewpoints, it is merely trying to prevent public infighting between its news and editorial staffs. I don't know who the editor-in-chief of the Times is, but it wouldn't surprise me if his last name were Goebbels.

The new golf hero for women is Suzy Whaley, who gained entry into the Greater Hartford Open, a men's PGA tournament, by winning a qualifier. In said qualifier, Ms. Whaley was allowed to hit from tees that made the course 10 percent shorter than it was for the men. Equal rights are great, but preferential treatment is even better. Right, ladies?

Ms. Whaley will have to hit from the same tees as the guys at the Greater Hartford Open, which hardly seems fair, because after all, she's only a girl. Ms. Burk, can't you do something?

Ultimately, Ms. Whaley will do nothing more than turn the Greater Hartford Open into a circus. You've come a long way, baby.

Augusta National should admit a female member. But Augusta National shouldn't have to admit a female member. Old Southern idiots have rights, too. One of those rights is freedom of choice. In the rush to make everything equal for everybody, we need to be careful that we don't trample certain basic liberties, especially in the pursuit of something as trivial as membership in a stinking country club.

Of course, I have a solution. You had to know I would.

The first step is to pick a low-level male golfer. How about Casey Martin? Let's get his name back in the headlines. Let's take Casey, who has a circulatory disorder in his right leg that makes it painful to walk, and have him petition for entry to the women's tour. I would love to see the reaction to that. The key word in equal rights is "equal." If equal rights were bestowed only on women, well, that's not actually "equal," is it?

So you get Casey on the LPGA tour. He already has the right to use a cart, and you load that cart up with sponsor logos from every product you can think of that appeals to men. How about Playboy, Coors Light, Skoal, Old Spice, Gillette Foamy, and the Moonlite Bunny Ranch? Martin, of course, gets to hit from the women's tees. "Equal," remember? His caddies? Those twins!

The upshot would be Martin's total domination of the LPGA. After a while Martin could quit, go back to whatever semblance of men's pro golf he's playing now, and the LPGA would be dead.

Step two: Publicly invite the top five WNBA players to play in the NBA. Guarantee them roster spots and a certain amount of playing time. Secretly offer a $10,000 bonus every time a male player blocks a female player's shot. Then sit back and wait for Lisa Leslie to match up down low with Ben Wallace. Think Ms. Leslie could continue her modeling career with "Spalding" tattooed backward on her forehead?

Step three: Publicly invite the top five female tennis players to play on the men's tour. Guarantee them spots in the main draw of each tournament. Secretly offer a $10,000 bonus ever time a male player wins a set 6-0 from a female player. Then sit back and wait for Goran Ivanesevic to knock Serena Williams right out of her cat suit.

Then, with the credibility of women's sports crumpled like an empty beer can, point out to Ms. Burk and her ilk that everything is finally equal. Happy now, honey?

When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, he deserved the opportunity to do so for one primary reason: He could play at that level. When you find a woman that can legitimately compete at the highest level of men's sports, let her play. I recommend you look for a unicorn instead. You'll have better luck.

As for the Augusta National flap, I admire Hootie Johnson for having the courage to go through life being called "Hootie," and for not taking the easy (and less expensive) way out by admitting a female member just to kill the controversy. Can't wait until he gets the Blowfish back together.

Mark Madden is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays on WEAE-AM (1250).

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