Billy Payne took one for the team.
That might not be the popular conclusion among the "About dang time!" chorus that sang out Monday after Augusta National welcomed its first female members. Nonetheless, it's the proper conclusion.
As Payne dodged some very pointed arrows from the global media last April, he knew Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore were in the pipeline for membership. He even might have known they were within mere months from confirmation.
Yet Payne stood firm on the club's policy of not discussing membership matters, even as his granddaughters were brought into the verbal standoff.
The easy answer might have been: "Well, in the not-too-distant future will come a day when the question won't need to be asked."
Instead, Payne gave us: "Though expressed quite artfully, I think that's a question that deals with membership. And my conversations with my granddaughters are also personal."
Not that anyone owes Billy Payne an apology. He knew what he was inheriting when he agreed to succeed Hootie Johnson as chairman. But anyone who has spent time around Payne had to know the controversy would end on his watch – but also fully within club protocol.
Don't forget, the man once organized an Olympics.
The 1996 Atlanta Games, in fact, often is cited as the starting point for a boom of women's events that continues today. The 3,513 women who competed there represented a 30 percent jump over the 2,708 in Barcelona four years earlier.
There's no logical reason to suggest his personal views on women regressed upon accepting a green jacket. On the other hand, dealing with about 200 national Olympic federations taught him a little something about protocol.
Even if that protocol sometimes can be measured with a sundial.
Right or wrong, evaluating an Augusta National candidate is a years-long process. That's no misprint. Years. Plural.
Exactly what takes so much time remains a closely guarded mystery, but one report this week suggests the names of Rice and Moore first were presented for consideration five years ago.
Nothing is done in haste at Augusta National – especially not when it comes to who gets one of those jackets.
That's what Johnson meant when he said: "There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership, but that timetable will be ours and not at the point of a bayonet."
Johnson made some headlines as well Wednesday, telling Bloomberg News he's the one who nominated Moore – a fellow South Carolinian and longtime friend in banking circles – to be a pioneer.
But neither Moore nor Rice would be fast-tracked. Payne affirmed as much Monday when he said the vetting process for them "was no different."
It also may explain why Virginia Rometty, whose ascension to IBM's chief executive rekindled the whole controversy last spring, was absent from Monday's announcement. Rometty's name very well may be in the pipeline now – just not far enough to join this fall's incoming class.
If Rometty shows up to the 2014 Masters in a green jacket, though, you'll understand.