Lloyd Ward, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, has made only one visit to Augusta National since joining the all-male golf club two years ago. He was there on Sunday, April 8, 2001, to see Tiger Woods win the Masters. Ward, one of a handful of African-American members of the club, played the fabled course the next day. Now there's a chance that Ward, who says he's working from the inside to integrate women into the club's membership ranks, will never play there again. His employer could make certain of that.
This past April, Ward told USA Today that Augusta National should allow women to be members. By becoming the first member to publicly address the issue, he violated the club's rule of omert�, under which only chairman Hootie Johnson speaks for Augusta. Students of the club's ways figured that Ward's days as a member were numbered. But Johnson, unpredictable though he is, is unlikely to banish Ward. Instead, the USOC's executive committee might force him to turn in his green jacket.
Herb Perez, one of 22 executive committee members, believes equal opportunity is the foundation of the Olympic movement and that Ward's membership at Augusta sends the wrong message. "We are believers in Tide IX, in women in sport, in women in leadership," says Perez. "I like Lloyd, but he cannot change [ Augusta] from the inside. I don't think he would join the Klan and try to change it from the inside."
Says USOC president Marty Mankamyer, " Lloyd Ward's membership at Augusta is not a minor issue. I intend to have it on the [executive committee] agenda as soon as I can." The executive committee next meets on Nov. 1.
Ward, a Michigan State basketball player in the late 1960s and the CEO and chairman of Maytag Corp. in 1999 and 2000, is not alone in calling for Augusta to open its doors to women. Earlier this month two other Augusta National members, Sanford Weill of Citigroup and Kenneth Chenault of American Express, issued carefully crafted statements endorsing the idea of female members. But Ward remains the favorite inside agitator of Martha Burk, the head of the National Council of Women's Organizations who has been pressuring Augasta National to admit women. "If I were a USOC board member, I'd probably give Lloyd Ward three to six months to help initiate change at Augusta," she says. "Put some sort of time frame on it. Because at some point 'working from the inside' starts to sound like an excuse for staying at the club."