defends male only members policy
In a defiant statement about
the privacy of Augusta National, chairman Hootie Johnson lashed out at a national
women's group Tuesday for urging the club to have female members before next year's
``Our membership alone decides our membership -- not any outside
group with its own agenda,'' Johnson said in a surprisingly long and angry statement.
The National Council of Women's Organizations, which has about 6 million
members from 160 groups, sent a letter to Johnson on June 12 after chairwoman
Martha Burk read reports about Augusta National not having women among its 300
Lloyd Ward, the first black CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee
and an Augusta member, said during the Masters that he would lobby to broaden
the membership to include women.
``We know that Augusta National and the
sponsors of the Masters do not want to be viewed as entities that tolerate discrimination
against any group, including women,'' Burk said in the letter.
In a three-sentence
reply to Burk that she received via overnight mail Wednesday, Johnson said he
found the letter to be ``offensive and coercive,'' and that there would be no
more discussion with NCWO because Augusta membership matters are private.
response is insensitive at best and confrontational at worst,'' Burk said. ``I
and my groups are making a good-faith effort to urge the club to be fair, to not
discriminate against women and basically to come into the 21st century.
were trying the olive-branch approach, but he's unwilling to talk.''
had plenty to say in a three-page statement released by the club.
message delivered to us was clearly coercive,'' he said. ``We will not be bullied,
threatened or intimidated. We do not intend to become a trophy in their display
Burk said NCWO's next step would be to contact the sponsors of
the Masters -- Coca-Cola, IBM and Citigroup -- to ask them not to do business
with a club that has no female members.
``I hope they'll respond positively,''
she said. ``I find it interesting to think that if the club barred blacks, whether
any sponsor would come near it in this day and age. Why should it be different
for barring half of the population?''
Augusta National, built on a former
nursery in northeastern Georgia, opened in 1932. The Masters was created in 1934
and has become the most famous golf tournament in the world. It usually gets the
highest television ratings, too.
Tiger Woods won the Masters this year
for the third time.
Johnson said in April that Augusta does not have exclusionary
membership policies, although it did not have a black member until 1990 and, as
Burk points out, has not had a female member in its 70-year history.
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 said.
there are no female members, several women have played Augusta. Johnson recently
invited the University of South Carolina women's golf team to play as his guest,
and Karrie Webb and Kelly Robbins from the LPGA Tour played the course in May.
Johnson tried to draw a line between the privacy of the club and the public
nature of the Masters tournament, attended by some 40,000 people.
National operates the Masters independent from any other golf organization, such
as the PGA Tour. The club gets most of its money from an annual TV contract with
CBS Sports and sales from its souvenir store at the course. Weekly tickets cost
$125, half the cost of other major golf championships.
and the Masters -- while happily entwined -- are quite different,'' Johnson said.
``One is a private golf club. The other is a world-class sports event of great
public interest. It is insidious to attempt to use one to alter the essence of
Burk suggested that if Augusta National does not have female
members, the Masters should move to a club that does.
``The Masters, in
my mind, is not tied at the hip to this club,'' she said. ``An event of this profile
could be held somewhere else.''
The next major golf championship is the
British Open, where Woods will try to win the third leg of the Grand Slam. It
will be played at Muirfield in Scotland, a club that also does not have female
``I'm going to leave that for the British feminists,'' Burk said.
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