Thursday, April 10

Burk to members: Pick a side



ATLANTA -- Martha Burk called on Augusta National members to take a stand against Hootie Johnson and turn in their green jackets if they don't agree with him on the issue of women members.

Masters a co-ed affair
She may never wear the green jacket of an Augusta National Golf Club member, but Mary Boldig would still rather stand at Amen Corner than in Martha Burk's corner.

Boldig, 49, came to The Masters by herself this year from Tullahoma, Tenn., where she owns a printing business. She's an avid golfer who's played courses in Scotland and Ireland -- at men-only clubs, she notes.

Like nearly everyone attending the tournament, Boldig knows all about Burk's crusade against Augusta National's all-male membership. But she's not about to miss a chance to see Tiger Woods win his third-straight Masters to picket a private club that admits only the super elite.

''It's never a possibility I'd be a member. To be a member, you've got to be somebody,'' Boldig said Thursday, when rain postponed the Masters opening round. ''What's sad now is, whenever they do get a woman member, she's going to think, 'I'm just a token.'''

The club's members may all be men, but The Masters is definitely a coed affair. And there's no sign that women are boycotting because of Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations.

Women are all over the course this week, some tagging along with husbands, others joining friends for a golf week. They're applauding players from the galleries and spending hefty sums in the pro shop.

''If I can have my little ticket and they'll let me come and watch and buy, I'm happy,'' said Linda Spradley of Augusta who dropped $500 on an official Masters watch, charm and sweaters -- some for her husband but ''mostly for me.''

T-shirts, caps and buttons with slogans bashing Burk or ballyhooing Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson have also been a hit with women fans.

Blake Roberts, a vendor selling souvenirs that mock Burk, said he was nervous of how women might react when he set up his tent outside the course on Monday. ''We were expecting a hornet's nest,'' he said.

''It's amazing. We've probably had 50 percent women buying. Women love the idea,'' said Roberts of Chattanooga, Tenn. ''You'll see a couple walking and the woman will go -- That's great! -- and pull her husband in.''
-- The Associated Press

Trying to regain the momentum in her fight to get a woman admitted to Augusta National, Burk said Thursday that club members who disagree with the club chairman should resign.

''If they do not agree with this policy, they must resign their memberships,'' Burk said. ''The choice is to stand up and support Hootie, or stand down.''

A day after more than 60 members appeared with Johnson in a public display of solidarity, Burk said it's time for all of the 300 or so members to publicly declare where they stand.

Particularly, she said, the corporate executives among the membership need to be accountable to their stockholders over the issue.

''If they believe Augusta National is right to continue excluding women, then I challenge them to hold a news conference and tell us publicly,'' Burk said.

The head of the National Council of Women's Organizations issued the challenge at a press conference with other supporters.

She was joined in a teleconference by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who pledged his support but said he wouldn't be at Saturday's scheduled protest in Augusta.

Jackson said protesters from his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition plan to have their voice heard and said arrests could occur if they are not allowed close enough to the gates of Augusta National.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the plan by local authorities to have the protests limited to a 5.1-acre site about a half-mile from the course.

''Plan B is arrest if plan A is denied,'' Jackson said.

Burk said she won't give up despite the court's refusal to overrule the Augusta sheriff's authority to deny her a permit to protest at the club's main gate.

She said a meeting was scheduled with Sheriff Ronald Strength on Friday to decide where the different protest groups could picket.

She called the protest lot ''the pit'' and said she hasn't ruled out sending a handful of protesters to the gate.

Jackson said his group stands behind Burk's organization on the issue of women members.

''The real issue is the PGA should not in fact support the Masters being held in Augusta so long as it is gender discriminatory,'' Jackson said. ''Just as the PGA should not participate in apartheid South Africa, they should not participate in gender apartheid in Augusta.''

Jackson had harsh words for Johnson.

''He is swimming upstream against history,'' Jackson said, noting that women have been allowed in all levels of government and the judicial system. ''All of this controversy could be ended if Hootie joined this century.''

On Wednesday, Johnson said his club has no timetable for admitting a woman member and that the policy was backed by all club members.

''It's not my issue alone,'' Johnson said. ''If I drop dead this second, our position will not change.''






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