Male-only policy is not up for discussion

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Augusta National chairman Billy Payne last night refused to enter into a debate on the highly controversial issue of women members.

One of the most exclusive clubs in sport, venue for the Masters since it began in 1934, Augusta National has remained male-only in the face of numerous calls to change.

The topic is news again now following the appointment of Ginni Rometty as IBM’s chief executive officer earlier this year. Previous holders of the position – IBM are one of the tournament sponsors – have been invited to become a “green jacket”, but Payne played a straight bat throughout a press conference on the eve of the tournament. “As has been the case whenever that question is asked, all issues of membership are now and have been historically subject to the private deliberations of the members,” said Payne, 64, who took over as chairman in 2006. “That statement remains accurate and remains my statement.”

Asked specifically about Rometty, he replied: “One, we don’t talk about our private deliberations. Number two, we especially don’t talk about it when a named candidate is a part of the question.”

When pressed on the subject and invited to send a message to young girls that one day they might be able to join, Payne stated: “Once again, that deals with a membership issue and I’m not going to answer it.”

He was questioned on how he felt about the issue coming up again and whether it reflected negatively on either the club or the tournament. “I think there’s certainly a difference of opinion on that and I don’t think I have formed an opinion on that,” he added.