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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Jabbed, prodded and poked repeatedly about a topic that never really goes away, Billy Payne wouldn’t budge.
Faced with questions at his annual news conference about when a woman would become a member at the home of the Masters, the Augusta National chairman gave different variations of the same answer: That’s our business, not yours.
The topic was on the front burner again Wednesday, the eve of the year’s first major, because one of the club’s longtime sponsors, IBM, has a new CEO — Virginia Rometty. The last four CEOs at IBM, all male, have been invited to be members.
Payne’s polite-but-firm responses were in direct contrast to those of his predecessor, Hootie Johnson. Faced with the issue 10 years ago, Johnson famously declared female membership would come on the club’s timetable and “not at the point of a bayonet.”
“As has been the case whenever that question is asked, all issues of membership have been and are subject to private deliberations of the members,” Payne said when the inevitable question was asked for the first time Wednesday. “That statement remains accurate and that remains my statement.”
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