As a life-long Augusta-area resident and an avid golfer, following The Masters Tournament is not just a personal pursuit - it's a passion.
In recent months, that passion has been pretty painful.
The latest chapter in Masters history certainly hasn't added lustre to the legacy which began when Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts christened the course at 2604 Washington Road.
Yes, we're talking about the controversial issue of women becoming members at Augusta National Golf Club.
The subject has been explored by pundits from coast to coast, and beyond. Everyone, it seems, wants to weigh in on whether women should be wearing green jackets.
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
That's not a sexist statement. Really. Simply put, the National is what it is - an ultra-exclusive club which has the right to determine its own membership policies.
Until I get my invitation, Martha Burk and her minions will get no sympathy.
Obviously, with the pressure being applied to Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson, a woman will be driving down Magnolia Lane before I do.
Doesn't that seem like discrimination against sportswriters?
I promise not to protest, but it is the perfect time to propose a masterful solution to this Masters mess.
The National, for all of its perceived shortcomings, deserves some respect - and some relief from the politically correct crowd.
The least I can do is offer a way to shut those folks up, and help save The Masters at the same time.
Here is the plan: Hootie Johnson could announce a new tournament at Augusta National Golf Club - The Women's Masters.
The inaugural event should be scheduled without delay. Currently, the LPGA Tour has a dearth of tournament dates early in the 2003 season, and a trip to Augusta would fit in quite nicely.
Impossible, you say? I disagree.
The Augusta National already has the infrastructure in place to conduct The Masters, and the course is going to be pristine and playable, so it would be plausible to squeeze in another week-long tourney in January, February or March.
The criteria for invitation to The Women's Masters should be similar to the standard for competing in the "other" Masters - top 40 money winners, foreign invites, strong showings in majors, etc.
Now, LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw has spouted off about the need to allow women into the National, but he would change his tune if his players were asked to showcase their skills on the most hallowed golfing grounds this side of St. Andrews.
Although some of the LPGA stars have bashed Hootie's stance, do you think for one minute they would boycott The Women's Masters, and bypass a chance to be part of this historic event?
Not in this lifetime.
But wait - it gets better. Imagine the monetary windfall for the Augusta area if there was a second Masters Week on the calendar.
Golf fans would flock to the Augusta National to see members of the Professional Bass Fishermens Association loft their lures into Ike's Pond.
I can hear the cash registers ringing.
Even with all of those positives, I'm saving the best for last.
Let's say The Women's Masters comes to fruition. After four rounds, you have a winner.
And that champion gets to wear a green jacket.
There you have it - Augusta National Golf Club accepts a woman into the fold, and a worthy one at that. This lucky lady would have earned her passage, and Hootie's black eye would start to heal.
Then, when the men make the scene the first week of April in Augusta, Jesse Jackson and Martha Burk will be somewhere else trying to right some other wrong.
You can stop laughing now. This is a serious proposition, and a stroke of genius, I might add.
The ball's in your court, Hootie. Follow my advice and everyone will live happily ever after.
By the way, my jacket size is 39 regular. Any locker will suit me just fine.
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