Augusta National Debate Extends to Players

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The battle between Augusta National Golf Club and the National Council of Womens Organizations is spreading to the players.
 
Martha Burk, the chairwoman for the NCWO, said on ESPN radio that PGA Tour players need to take a moral stand in the debate as to whether the private club, which hosts the Masters Tournament, should include women members.
 
I know that women want to be members and I imagine that sooner or later (Augusta National chairman) Hootie Johnson will invite a woman to be a member there,' said 1998 Masters champion Mark OMeara. 'But from the standpoint of being forced to have a lady member there, you know, its a private club, and you cant always agree with what people do in a private club, but you know, thats why its private.
 
My feeling is, just back off a little, let it calm down and everything will be fine and I imagine that sooner or later there will be a female member.
 
A current member of Augusta National told ESPN radio that the club considered admitting a female member this year and discussed the matter four months ago, but changed their minds when they felt the NCWO was forcing them to do so.
 
After publicly trading letters of disapproval, Burk said she was going to target the Masters sponsors. Johnson countered by announcing the tournament was dropping its sponsors ' IBM, Coca-Cola and Citigroup ' in 2003, to shield them from the controversy.
 
Now, after saying she would next go after CBS, which has broadcasted the Masters for 46 years, Burk has targeted the players ' many of whom are reluctant to get involved.
 
I think the club probably has the right to do what they want to do, but I dont see why my opinion should count, said Justin Leonard.
 
Ive been on the road and havent been reading the papers, so Im just going to stay out of it, said 2000 Masters champion Vijay Singh.
 
There are others, however, who are not riding the fence.
 
You know what, its a private club and they can do what they want to do and if they dont want a woman member there then thats their prerogative, Steve Stricker said.
 
It doesnt really affect my life whether they have a woman member there or not. But, you know, Im going to go play in The Masters if Im invited because its where you want to be in April.
 
Augusta National has not had a woman member in its 69-year history. It introduced its first black member in 1990.
 
Over the course of the debate, the club has cited the following as its constitutional rights and the difference between Augusta National, a private club, and The Masters, a major golf tournament:
 
1. This is not a legal issue. The Masters has a constitutional right to its private membership.

2. Martha Burk tries to equate this to the Shoal Creek racial issue in 1990, but they are totally different. In America, there are women's colleges, the Girl Scouts of America and women's health clubs throughout the country. In Canada and overseas, there are women-only golf clubs.
 
3. The Club possibly will have a woman member in the future, but it
should be the Club's decision, not the decision of an outside group that knows little about the Club or Tournament. In Ms. Burk's initial letter, she placed a deadline on the Club to have a woman member (2003), and discussed the sponsors of the Tournament.
 
4. The winner in this sponsorship issue is the viewer. There will now be 12 hours of commercial free golf coverage.
 
5. What is presently happening is a corporate campaign. The National Council of Women's Organizations is targeting anyone associated with the Masters.
 
6. The reason we chose not to ask the sponsors to participate in 2003 was to spare them the inevitability of a continued corporate campaign that could have included protests and boycotts.
 
7. Dr. Burk is now telling individuals what to watch on television. In three online polls conducted this weekend, nearly 90 percent of respondents said they would continue to watch the Masters on CBS. Over 4.3 million women watched the Masters last year.
 
8. The Masters and Augusta National are different. One is a private club, and the other is a world-class sporting event that is completely inclusive.
 
9. The Masters is being used as a symbol. Several other Clubs do not allow women to play or even to enter the grounds. Women play at Augusta National regularly, and there are no restrictions on tee times. Women played over 1,000 rounds at the Club last year.
 
Burk said she is still deciding whether or not to picket The Masters in April.
 
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