Female Member Unlikely Before Masters

By Associated PressNovember 11, 2002, 5:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A navy blue cap in the Augusta National pro shop has 'Masters 2003' stitched in white ' merchandise with a message.
Despite the controversy over its all-male membership that swirls well beyond the gates of Augusta National, chairman Hootie Johnson says the Masters will be played the second week of April, no matter what.
He was equally decisive about the club's membership: No women.
Not by the next Masters.
And certainly not at the point of a bayonet.
Defiant as ever, Johnson staunchly defended the rights of a private club, suggesting the Masters has not been tarnished and that most Americans were on his side.
'We will prevail because we're right,' the 71-year-old chairman said in a Nov. 4 interview with The Associated Press.
Johnson's comments were the first on the subject since he fueled the debate with a three-page statement that defended the club's right to privacy, and criticized Martha Burk and the National Council of Women's Organizations for trying to coerce change.
He said in his July 9 missive that Augusta National may some day have a female member, 'but not at the point of a bayonet,' which has become a slogan of his resolve.
'Our club has enjoyed a camaraderie and a closeness that's served us well for so long, that it makes it difficult for us to consider change,' Johnson said during the hourlong interview. 'A woman may be a member of this club one day, but that is out in the future.'
Asked if there was any chance there would be a female member by the Masters, Johnson replied flatly, 'No.'
Burk was equally confident her group would prevail, and suggested that Johnson only broke his silence because he was starting to feel pressure.
'I had sincerely and genuinely hoped it could be settled, and I still hope so,' she said Monday afternoon. 'Hopefully, this is Hootie's last hurrah, and there still may be some pressure outside the club to make this change. That might be the case, or he wouldn't have called this interview to make points he has made in the past.'
Johnson spoke from his second-floor office, whose walls bear a photo of him and former chairman Clifford Roberts and an original portrait of Bobby Jones painted by President Eisenhower.
He was as unyielding as ever, offering the kind of assurances usually reserved for death, taxes and whether Tiger Woods has the game to contend for a fourth Masters title.
'There will always be a Masters,' he said.
He was adamant that Augusta National would not cave in to the demands of Burk or anyone else who dares to challenge the constitutional rights of a private club to associate with whomever it wants.
'This woman portrays us as being discriminatory and being bigots. And we're not,' Johnson said. 'We're a private club. And private organizations are good. The Boy Scouts. The Girl Scouts. Junior League. Sororities. Fraternities. Are these immoral? See, we are in good company as a single-gender organization.'
He sees no connection between racial and gender discrimination.
'Do you know of any constitutional lawyer that's ever said they were the same? Do you know any civil rights activists that said it was the same? It's not relevant,' he said. 'Nobody accepts them as being the same.'
Augusta National opened in 1933, the vision of Roberts, a Wall Street investment banker, and Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur ever.
The Masters was created in 1934 and has evolved into the most famous of golf's four major championships, the only one played on the same course.
Johnson, a retired banker, was 4 when he attended his first Masters in 1935. He was invited to join Augusta National in 1968, and was elected chairman 30 years later.
He is said to have worked behind the scenes to get the first black admitted to the club in 1990, shortly after the all-white membership controversy at Shoal Creek in Alabama.
Augusta National allows women to play its golf course without restrictions. Women played more than 1,000 rounds last year, and Johnson invited the South Carolina women's golf team as his guest.
So, what's wrong with having one as a member?
'We just don't choose to do that at this time,' he said.
Johnson said Burk's letter hasn't had any effect on the club's decision to invite a woman to join.
Still, the chairman clearly is annoyed by Burk's campaign. He never mentioned her by name, three times referring to her only as 'this woman' or 'that woman.'
Asked if he had any regrets about his response to Burk ' three sentences vs. three pages to the media ' Johnson smiled: 'I seldom have any regrets. I don't look back much.'
Then he turned serious and added: 'I regret that she threatened us. And I regret that she threatened our sponsors.'
Johnson dismissed the only TV sponsors of the Masters ' Citigroup, Coca-Cola and IBM ' after Burk challenged them to live up to their own policies against sex discrimination.
That will make next year's Masters, which already gets the highest ratings among golf tournaments, the first commercial-free sporting event on network TV.
Can the Masters survive financially without sponsors for more than one year?
'We could go indefinitely,' Johnson said. 'But I don't think we'll have to. We'll have our sponsors back. I just believe that we're right on this issue, and that they'll be comfortable in sponsoring the Masters Tournament.'
If some view this controversy as having the potential to mar the crown jewel of golf, Johnson certainly doesn't.
'The majority of Americans are with us on this issue,' he said, leaning back in his leather chair. 'I want you to know that.'
How can he be so sure?
'I just know it,' Johnson said. 'I know it by the response I get here.'
He reached for a letter and newspaper clipping on the coffee table, a poll from the Lancaster (Pa.) Intelligencer Journal, that asked readers to call in their vote on whether Augusta should admit women. Of 624 callers, 90 percent said no.
On his desk were four files, each one bulging with letters he said supported Augusta National and its rights as a private club.
Johnson said he has read and responded to each one.
'I don't think we've been damaged,' he said.
The only time Johnson's voice was tinged with agitation was when he wondered why his club should be penalized 'for presenting something that's good for the game of golf?'
'Something that 150 million watch around the world? Something that's a harbinger of spring? Something that is respected worldwide? We're going to be penalized for that?'
Burk has challenged several high-profile members of Augusta National to own up to their public stand against discrimination.
Lloyd Ward, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee and one of only a half-dozen black members at Augusta, said he would work for change from inside the club. American Express chairman Kenneth Chenault, another black member, also said he believed there should be female members.
That violates a cardinal rule at Augusta. The club traditionally speaks with one voice ' Johnson's.
'I'm not going to talk about members,' he said, cutting off a question about comments from executives like Ward and Chenault. 'We'll handle that internally.'
Johnson did not appear to be concerned, nor did he think the debate would steal headlines from Woods going after a record third straight Masters title.
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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.