This fall, Haskins enrolled in an online course through Cornell University to earn a diversity and inclusion certificate. One of the lessons, he said, was that meaningful diversity in any club or company can only happen when the people brought in are not expected to conform to the existing environment but are encouraged to add their unique perspective.
Upon hearing the news that Augusta National had adopted his proposal, Haskins was reflective.
“It’s significant for Augusta National to be doing this at this moment in time,” said Haskins, now the chief marketing officer of the Professional Collegiate League. “I think it’s extremely special. I know it’s going to mean a lot to the people of color who want to see more reflections of themselves in the game.”
Still, he remained dubious that the club’s power brokers were committed to changing its culture. “What are they doing from this day forward to create a climate that is welcoming and comfortable and allowing people to be their authentic selves?” Haskins said.
In 2008, Kenton Makin, a Black sportswriter, was assigned to cover the Masters for The Aiken Standard, a daily newspaper in South Carolina. He walked the grounds and noticed that most of the patrons, as the spectators are called, were white. And most of the people picking up the trash and serving him food in the media center were Black.
“I felt that angst, that uncomfortability,” Makin said.
He was at the event again in 2012, he said, and hasn’t been back since. Makin, who now hosts a podcast, said: “I call it ‘that golf tournament.’ The reason I call it ‘that golf tournament’ is I think calling it the Masters when you understand its sordid history, I think the Masters is in and of itself an ideology that literally ties back to white supremacy.”
If Augusta National’s loblolly pines, some of which predate the Civil War, could talk, they would tell the story of a parcel of land that has gone from an indigo plantation in the middle of the 19th century to a private white men’s society that reflected the racist mores of the 20th century to a private wealthy person’s society in the 21st century that hosts the most prestigious professional golf tournament in the world, has Black and female members and now even oversees a women’s amateur tournament.