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Augusta Silent on Gender Issue

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta National chairman Billy Payne remained tight-lipped on the issue Wednesday despite repeated questions dealing with the club's absence of female membership.

Payne was asked time and again -- in various forms -- why the club hasn't dropped its gender barrier. Each time he responded that club deliberations are a private matter.

The absence of female membership at Augusta returned to the spotlight when Ginni Rometty became chief executive officer of International Business Machines. The last four IBM CEO's were extended membership to the club, and the corporation is one of a select group of Masters sponsors.

Augusta National can't have it both ways. Payne spoke at length about the club's global efforts to grow the game of golf and address the concern of dwindling youth participation. Augusta National has even established a committee charged with identifying solutions. Yet at the same time it remains exclusionary when it comes to gender.

Payne, chairman of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, has led a progressive movement since becoming chairman of Augusta National in 2006 and has been the driving force behind tournament enhancements. It's unclear whether the absence of female membership reflects his views in addition to those of the membership.

-- Bob DiCesare

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