Leading article: Reality finally bites at Augusta

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The Independent Online

It was only ever a matter of time before the real world came knocking at the door of the Augusta National golf club. Now it is finally doing so – in the person of Virginia Rometty.

The exclusive Georgia club has always defended its absurd men-only tradition with the claim that, as a private organisation, it is free to invite – or not – whoever it pleases to join its hallowed membership list.

Ms Rometty cannot be so easily dismissed, however. Unlike previous efforts to drag Augusta National into the modern world, her challenge to the silliness of the club's membership policy does not come from safely outside the gates. In fact, she is not campaigning at all.

The problem is that Ms Rometty is the chief executive of IBM, one of the major sponsors of Augusta National's Masters tournament. And as such, tradition dictates that she should attend the event as a club member, complete with the famous Augusta green jacket never yet worn by a woman. After all, no fewer than four of her predecessors at the company did.

For all the huffing and puffing about the club's rights, the exclusion of women is indefensible, an anachronism that would never be tolerated on the grounds of, say, race. It can only be hoped that the risk of losing a lucrative sponsor can concentrate minds even where the forces of social progress apparently cannot.