Last Stop on the Protest Line

By Adam BarrApril 9, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- We have moved, in a little less than a year, from letters and acrimony to placards and bullhorns. This is the week so many have awaited, and just as many have dreaded. This week, all the I wonders will be answered.
 
Written on the tablet of the worlds most famous golf tournament ' which itself will share the headlines with the Iraqi war ' will be another chapter in this countrys endless struggles about civil rights.
 
Martha BurkDr. Martha Burk is scheduled to lead a public protest Saturday against Augusta National Golf Club, a private organization and the definition of Heaven on Earth to millions who have never been near it. Dr. Burk wants to get that club to admit women as members. She includes this crusade in the agenda of the National Council of Womens Organizations, of which she is chair. That agenda includes, among other things, issues pertaining to reproductive rights, workplace equity, and abuse of women in Third World nations.
 
Dr. Burk has encountered a nations worth of varied reaction, from the enthusiastic You go, girl school to the befuddled head-scratches of the Who cares? crowd to the virulent opposers who perpetuate the American habit of binding disagreement to hate.
 
This last group bothers her not at all, even when they approach in white hoods. (Dr. Burk will not tell the media where she is staying in Augusta this week. She is unflappable, but not reckless.) In a life of activism and inside-the-Beltway machinations, she has learned not to lose sleep over hate mail.
 
But Martha Burk is serious about her quest. She maintains that the clubs sponsorship of so great a tournament as the Masters forces it to sacrifice the shield of private association laws. Chiefs of industry, of consumer product companies, of conglomerates that guarantee rights of women workers, are members of the most storied golf club in the land, Burk says. The economic ties are too great to ignore, she says.
 
Besides, Dr. Burk says, this is not a legal issue, and never has been. It is a moral issue.
 
Finding himself ' and his world ' at the point of Burks bayonet is William Hootie Johnson, one of the most respected men in Richmond County, Georgia, and across the Savannah River in southern South Carolina. By all accounts Johnson is a Southern gentleman of the old school, a soft-spoken, charitable, peaceful man who has carved out over many years a reputation for fair dealing and gentility. Johnson allegedly told USA Today columnist Christine Brennan in 1999 that in time the club would indeed admit a woman.
 
But Johnson read a lot of things he didnt like between the lines of his first letter from Burk, and decided to go public with the matter ' and with his strong response. That decision, and his subsequent handling of the affair, has drawn a great deal of criticism. It remains unclear whether the clubs objection is to the possibility of woman members or to the effort to force a timetable.
 
Either way, Hootie's reaction is truly Southern. The states of the former confederacy have traditionally not liked to be told what to do, no matter what the issue, no matter right or wrong. Witness, in living memory, the struggles to equalize access to education and voting rights throughout the South. Who could believe this club membership issue, although much less important than those basic rights, would be any different?
 
The media attention, which has continued at high intensity considering the lack of true new developments in the case and the outbreak of war, has fertilized the seeds planted by fringe elements ' and so this week we can expect to see and hear from the Reverend Jesse Jackson and his PUSH Coalition, seemingly omnipresent in times of controversy, as well as group called People Against Ridiculous Protests. This last group is one of many anti-Burk voices that have spoken in recent months, some complete with websites on which ' surprise ' t-shirts and other anti-Burk memorabilia are sold, presumably to defray the cost of a big Burk shout-down.
 
We will also hear from native Augustans, many of whom have never thought of the Masters as a class-oriented or gender-based event. They simply love the atmosphere, the ambience ' and the income. A lot of the natives have protest permits, and theyre planning to use them. (And a lot of them are women.)
 
What well see, when the week is over, is whether protests away from the clubs gates will do Burks cause any good. We will see if the clubs strategy of outlasting Burk and crowning a champion inside those gates Sunday makes the matter go away (for if Burk hasnt succeeded by Sunday, what momentum will she have for 2004?). Well see if a federal appeals court will reverse a district court ruling Monday in Burks suit against the City of Augusta. (The district court decided the citys protest permit ordinance was constitutional, both as written and as applied to Dr. Burks group. In that last ruling, the court said that moving the protests to a field near the club is a reasonable time, place and manner restriction on free speech.)
 
And what we will see, for better or worse, is how the game of golf comes out of this in the eye of the public. It doesnt matter that this is not a golf issue, that golf is just the stage on which it will play out. Whatever happens this week will stick to golfs reputation like glue. The national mind doesnt parse things out in detail. If things go badly in Augusta, golf will look bad, no matter who is to blame.
 
Golfs uncertain future in this country could get a lot clearer ' one way or the other.
 
Stay tuned.
 
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
  • Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

    By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

    On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

    “Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

    “My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

    Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

    New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

    By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

    In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

    Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Web.com Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

    “It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

    His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

    “I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

    Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

    By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

    That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

    That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

    “Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

    “Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

    Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

    By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

    Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

    Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

    What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

    Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

    Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

    Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

    Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

    Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.