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Tim Finchem criticised over Augusta issue

Continuing pick her spots while keeping the Augusta National gender issue on the national agenda, feminist leader Martha Burk on Monday ridiculed PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem's stance on the club's membership, which she said smacks of "major hypocrisy."

Pushing yet another hot button, Burke challenged Finchem to explain this week why the tour prohibits the staging of its tournaments at clubs with exclusionary policies, yet refuses to make a comparable stand regarding the controversial home of the Masters tournament.

"It's major hypocrisy," said Burke, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations. "His response to our initial letter was inappropriate and irritating, to say the least."

Burke noted the apparent double standard in a letter to Finchem two months ago. Finchem, in a reply dated Aug. 20, told Burk that since the tour doesn't have a contract with Augusta, it cannot dictate change.

Though the tour does not co-sponsor the Masters, which is run by the club, the tour provides the bulk of the field and recognizes player winnings on its money list. Moreover, the tour money list is one of the criteria used to gain Masters eligibility.

Not coincidentally, Finchem is scheduled to give his annual state-of-the-tour address Wednesday at The Tour Championship in Atlanta -- roughly two hours from Augusta. The issue surely will be broached.

"He essentially says, 'We don't have a relationship with them, but we don't plan to change it,'" Burk said, laughing. "It was a dismissive letter, I thought, and an attempt to stonewall the issue. It's not appropriate for the PGA Tour because they are compromising their own principals."

Burk called upon Finchem to close the loophole, drop the Masters as an official event or exert other forms of leverage until a female is admitted as a member.

"Recognizing the tournament in their earnings is their decision to make," she said. "They should suspend recognition until this problem is solved."

Burk reiterated that if a woman is not admitted by the 2003 Masters in April, a parade of picketers could be marching down Washington Road in Augusta, Ga. She said unsolicited volunteers are lining up for the chance to affect change via "pickets, buses, all of that sort of thing."

She adds: "We're getting calls from everywhere. Women are giving me their cards and saying, 'If you protest, call me and I'm going.' College campuses are saying, 'We're going to skip Ft. Lauderdale [for spring break] this year and do Augusta because it's cheaper and might be more fun.'

"There's no question that protests are a distinct possibility -- whether or not we coordinate them."

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