Tara Sullivan Denied Access To Masters Locker Room

By Marcus Vanderberg Comment

The Masters reared its ugly head on Sunday when it denied The Bergen (NJ) Record reporter Tara Sullivan access to the locker room.

Sullivan shared her side of the story last night:

So here’s my side of the story. I decided to write my main column on [Rory] McIlroy’s stunning collapse on Masters Sunday, so as he made his way out of the scorer’s hut on the 18th green, I joined the group of reporters waiting to interview him in a roped off area.

Always in search of another quote and more description and reaction to share with my readers, I followed McIlroy to the famous oak tree outside the clubhouse, a spot where golfers often stop to do more interviews. McIlroy kept walking, and so did the group of reporters I was with. We walked into the clubhouse and followed as McIlroy made his way to the locker room. At the final portion of the hallway, the one that ended at the locker room door, I was told by a female security officer that I was not allowed in.

That was it.

Rather than disrupt the deadline efforts of my working colleagues, I stopped there. I looked around for any official Masters representative, but didn’t see anyone. I asked the security woman again why they had such a policy, and she told me it was because there was an open bathroom area in the locker room. My response was, “yes, just like all of the pro locker rooms I routinely go into.”

She apologized for the rule, saying it was not her policy, while insisting that the male security guard at the next doorway would bar me also. I stepped outside to see if I could do a different interview instead, hoping perhaps to find McIlroy’s manager or the three friends from Northern Ireland who were here with him. I walked down to the tree and back again, and shortly after I re-entered the same clubhouse door, the interview was over.

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke immediately pulled me aside to share the quotes, and later, colleague John Romano e-mailed me a full transcription of the taped interview.

I continued researching for my column, walking over to the fateful 10th hole that ruined McIlroy’s day so I could see where his errant tee shot went, and then made my way back to the media room to work. Shortly after, I tweeted what had happened. I also approached the media desk for an official reaction. An apology was translated to me shortly after, and before long, Ethun met with me personally.

“I apologize,” he said. “It was a complete misunderstanding by tournament week security and you should have rightfully been given access per the standard practices of major sporting events.”

The issue touched a nerve for many reasons. Augusta National does not allow women members, so perhaps security personnel could be confusing club policy with Masters policy. But women journalists have every right to be allowed wherever their male colleagues go, a right already determined by law. If they want to close the locker room to interviews, then they have to do it for everyone, not just me.

This is 2011, right? Why is Augusta National constantly stuck in 1953?