Small group looking to make internal compromise

Updated: September 29, 2002, 10:19 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A small group of Augusta National Golf Club members plan to seek an internal compromise to end a conflict with women's groups critical of the club's all-male membership, The New York Times reported in its editions Sunday.

About a dozen of the roughly 300 members of the club, which plays host to the Masters, said they were concerned club chairman Hootie Johnson had not taken the right approach. They said they would seek to have Augusta National admit at least one female member within the next six months or so.

Johnson said he would not be "bullied" into allowing women to be members after Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, wrote to him in June about the issue.

Last month, Johnson dropped the three television sponsors for the 2003 Masters. The move, an attempt to shield the club from further controversy, creates the only commercial-free sports event in the United States.

"There is enough concern to do something to ease the tension over this one membership issue, since we're a club that has women around all the time, anyway," one member told the Times on condition of anonymity.

"Some people are talking about not backing down, but some people are talking about moving on."

The newspaper reported that several members planned to come up with a compromise, such as admitting one or two women as members before or shortly after the Masters next April. They said they will press their case to the membership when the club reopens in mid-October.

Burk sent letters to seven high-profile members of Augusta National, including four chief executives, on Thursday asking them to explain why they belonged to a club that had no women as members. Among those receiving letters were: Lloyd Ward, chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee; U.S. Rep. Amo Houghton, R-N.Y.; Sam Nunn, a former U.S. senator from Georgia who is a member of Coca-Cola's board; Sanford I. Weill, the chief executive of Citigroup; Christopher B. Galvin, the chief executive of Motorola; William B. Harrison Jr., the chief executive of J.P. Morgan Chase; and Kenneth Chenault, chairman of American Express.

The 69-year-old Johnson, who is recovering from heart surgery early this month, declined the Times' requests for an interview, the newspaper said. A spokesman for Augusta National also told the newspaper the club would not comment.


Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press

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