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Diversity At The Masters? Well, Yes

Anthony Kim smiles to the gallery on the 17th green during the final round of the 2010 Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Jamie Squire/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Anthony Kim smiles to the gallery on the 17th green during the final round of the 2010 Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Golf — the ultimate country club game — is one of the last places you might think to look for diversity. And inside the world of golf, few places have been less diverse historically than the Masters in Augusta, Ga.

Yet as the tournament wrapped up Sunday, the faces on the leaderboard offered a surprising mini-Census. The winner was Apple Pie American Phil Mickelson, of course, followed by British star Lee Westwood.

Then came Anthony Kim, the rising 24-year-old Korean-American star; Tiger Woods, a veritable melting pot of ethnic backgrounds; and K.J. Choi, who taught himself how to play golf in South Korea with the help of a Jack Nicklaus instructional book.

Also in the mix Sunday was Fred Couples, striking a blow against ageism. At age 50, Couples — the first-round leader — was trying to become the oldest player ever to capture a Masters title.

All this at a club that for many epitomizes exclusion. As Michel Martin's Monday commentary points out, it has never had a woman member, although there are now women on a long waiting list of potential members. It did not accept a black member until 1990.

And when pioneering African-American golfer Lee Elder won his way into the 1975 Masters, becoming the first black participant, he was barraged by hate mail the week before the tournament.

Adding to Augusta's plantation mentality, while the golfers were once all white, the caddies at the club were all black. This fact was well-enough established that when my junior-high school pal Mike, who was white, moved with his family to Augusta in the 1970s, he vowed to become the first white caddy at the club.

His dream, such as it was, went unrealized.

Yet like water on a rock, things do change. Tiger has won the tournament four times. Last year's winner was Angel Cabrera of Argentina, the first Latin American star to win the Masters' fabled Green Jacket.

Had Choi hung on to win, he would have been the first Asian victor. But he would have been the second straight South Korean to capture one of golf's major tournaments ... remember that countryman Y.E. Yang out-dueled Tiger Woods himself at last year's PGA.

What does it all mean? Maybe not too much. Golf is hardly a microcosm of society. It's expensive and time-consuming and in most cases it's an acquired taste.

But it's good to see that even a fortress like Augusta National is not entirely impregnable for those who keep swinging.

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