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CNN Access

Former Augusta member: Club 'pigheaded'

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on CNN.com providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

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Wyman on CNN

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(CNN) -- The controversy over allowing women to join Augusta National Golf Club flared again Tuesday when former CBS chief executive Thomas H. Wyman resigned from the club over its males-only practice.

Calling the club's practice of barring women members "pigheaded," Wyman spoke Tuesday with CNN's Connie Chung about his decision to leave.

CHUNG: Now...[this issue] became an uproar back in June. Why did you decide to resign now?

WYMAN: Well, I've been brooding over several months as the sentiment has built around the country, particularly with the women's groups, and appropriately with the women's groups, questioning why there were no members at such a highly visible and attractive and popular location. It seemed out of tune with the times.

...Hootie Johnson, who runs the club very firmly, has made it clear that there is no fixed plan and there may not be one for some time. And, in the process, we watch the heat being turned up on one of the great institutions in the United States.

CHUNG: And what is it doing to that institution?

WYMAN: Well, it's doing two things, I think. One, it's -- the institution is drawing inward. It's asserting its right -- and I wouldn't quarrel with this -- that private institutions should have a chance to select their members. And that's an appropriate priority, unless there are some overriding considerations. And, in this case, there are.

...But the issue, Augusta is not just a club. It's a shrine. It's a model. It's an internationally recognized, absolute top sports event, beautifully run, beautifully managed, wonderful history. And its image is being chopped down by the day as the criticism mounts at the exclusionary policies, which are so far out of touch with the century we're living in now. And that's a larger consideration.

CHUNG: You said that the position of the leadership is downright pigheaded. I think a lot of people believe that Hootie Johnson completely mishandled the situation. But aren't there plenty of members of the club who actually agree with him?

WYMAN: Well, there certainly are, or at least they're prepared to march in single file behind him. My hope and expectation is that the many corporate leaders, the many major figures in public life, whose own lives and enterprises have long since passed the diversity issue and treated it properly, that they will now surface and the good old boys club will join the 20th -- the 21st century, and which they could do so quickly.

CHUNG: You asked Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus to join you in supporting the idea of women being admitted. Have you heard from them?

WYMAN: I have not heard from them. It was only in today's New York Times article that reference was made to the impact that they could have if they chose. To date, they have not. Arnold has stepped back. My guess is, he would approve, but he's not challenging the local authority at the moment. I hope he changes his mind.

CHUNG: Are they the only pros that belong to Augusta? I mean, there are others who have won the Masters and become basically...

WYMAN: No, there are only two [Palmer and Nicklaus].

CHUNG: So, when people were calling on Tiger Woods to lead the pack and support the idea of admitting women: Wasn't that a little unfair to ask him to do that, because he's not even a member?

WYMAN: I think that I agree, although his voice -- from a distance [could help]. ... I think the parallel with the situation with the African-Americans, for me, is absolutely straight and clear. ...In 1990, we were forced, the club was forced -- in order to keep the tournament, to have black members invited to join. And so it was done. It was done quickly. It was done gracefully. There are now seven black members. They're wonderfully well accepted and everyone thinks it's a good idea. And it could be precisely the same with the women, in my view.



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