Tara Sullivan, a columnist for the Bergen (NJ) Record, tried to follow Rory McIlroy, who collapsed on the back nine to shoot 80, into the Augusta National locker room with a group of male colleagues when a security guard stopped her and said she couldn’t go in because Augusta’s policy prohibits women from the locker room. Sullivan tweeted the news and quickly word spread across the world, followed by outrage. Well, turns out the security guard was misinformed (but it only takes one to cause an unflattering controversy — I certainly wouldn’t want to be that guard right now as I’m sure she’s received a scathing reprimand) since club policy provides equal access to all reporters, regardless of gender.
Augusta spokesman Steve Ethun said it was a “singular” security guard who was unfamiliar with the guidelines. He told Sullivan, “It was a complete misunderstanding by the tournament week security, and you should have rightfully been given access per the standard practices of major sporting events.” (Women covering other major sports leagues are allowed equal locker room access and the majority conduct themselves appropriately — it’s never the most comfortable thing, but you gotta do your job.)
Esteemed journalists Christine Brennan and Melanie Hauser both have been in the locker room many times. Hauser tweeted, “@Record_Tara it was a misunderstanding… truly… 28 masters, i’ve been in the locker room a zillion times. working it out.”
Sullivan also said a male colleague provided her with the quotes immediately after the fact and another emailed them to her. She accepted spokesman Ethun’s policy. Apparently not every journalist was satisfied by the club’s response. CBSSports.com columnist Mike Freeman sent a flurry of ranting tweets, including this one:
I wouldn’t exactly call the media spokesman a “secretary,” but it wouldn’t hurt if a Green Coat took a minute to express his regrets. Yeah, good luck with that…
From what I’ve gathered, Sullivan’s experience on Sunday evening was a misunderstanding, which was cleared up as quickly as possible. No big deal. I’ve been stopped and questioned before by security guards at other tournaments who don’t think I have access because I’m a woman until I show them the fine print that says “locker room” access on my credential.
Also to Augusta’s credit, the Green Coats run a tight shop at the Masters and the security/volunteers/workers are overall more organized and proficient than the average event. Earlier in the week, my housemates and I joked that if only TSA were as efficient as the Masters (security lines, will call, bag check, concessions, etc.), it sure would solve a lot of problems and make navigating through airports way less excruciating.
The unfortunate incident will attract unwanted negative publicity mostly because of Augusta National’s reputation. The club doesn’t permit — excuse me, has never “invited” a woman to join and perpetuates its reputation as an old boy’s club run by wealthy, powerful green-coat-wearing elitists who continue to uphold rigid policies from the dark ages and rule by fear.
It’s unfortunate that such a magical finish at the 2011 Masters was slightly blemished by this mishap. Even if what happened to Sullivan is a non-story, it’s already turned into one. Though the club did its best to do damage control, it won’t curb the criticism and controversy. And who’s to blame? Social media!