The group spearheading the drive to get women admitted at
Augusta National Golf Club may soon begin targeting sponsors of PGA
Tour events to put more pressure on club leaders.
Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's
Organizations, said the move would be one of several if there is no
progress soon in getting women into the exclusive, 300-member club.
The issue prompted Augusta National to drop its television
sponsors -- Citigroup, IBM and Coca-Cola -- for the 2003 Masters in
an attempt to shield the club from further controversy. Without
sponsors, CBS' Masters coverage will be the only commercial-free
telecast in sports.
Now Burk wants to take it a step further, pressuring sponsors of
"I expect to be having a conversation with PGA Tour sponsors,''
Burk also raised the possibility that protesters would greet
players outside the gates of Augusta National next April if women
are not on the membership rolls by then.
"People are interested in coming down and protesting and
they're not necessarily my members,'' Burk said. "There are
college groups who say they'll come down and protest instead of
going to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break. Women's groups are
writing me telling me they'll take vacation to protest. There's
also a lot of people in Atlanta and the immediate contiguous states
who feel strongly about this and could be there.''
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, weighed in again on the issue, saying he
thought both sides were right and they should sit down together and
resolve the matter.
"Hootie is right, and Martha is right. That's the problem,''
Woods said after a practice round at the Disney World Golf Classic.
"They're both right, but they're going about it the wrong way. If
they both sat down and talked about it, it would be resolved a lot
better than what's going on right now.''
Burk said targeting PGA Tour sponsors is a natural next step
because of the tour's association with the Masters. The PGA Tour
doesn't run the Masters, but considers it an official event for its
PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said he doesn't see the connection
between tour sponsors and the push for women at Augusta National.
"We don't understand a particular basis for concern because our
title sponsors don't have a direct nexus to any issues,'' Combs
said. "They have a relationship with us. We don't even have a
contract with Augusta National.''
Last month, PGA tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the tour had
no plans to change its relationship with the Masters, a decision
Burk said was shortsighted.
"The tour is one of the most hypocritical institutions in this
mix,'' she said. "I have gotten information there are sponsors
already nervous about Tim Finchem's response to us, as they should
be. They're trying to have it both ways and they're making a
mockery out of their own standards.''
Attempts to get comment from a number of prominent tour
sponsors, including Buick, Ford and Coca-Cola were not successful.
A spokesman for DaimlerChrysler said there was really nothing to
say until Burk follows through with her plans.
"To my knowledge we haven't been contacted,'' said James
Kenyon, senior manager of public relations. "I'm sure there will
be plenty of opportunities for that once we are.''
Burk said she plans to allow time for Augusta National members
to work within the club to bring about change before her
organization takes additional steps. And she insisted she would not
"It ends when there's a woman admitted to Augusta National and
not before,'' she said.
Earlier, Burk sent letters to more than 20 Augusta National
members who are officers of major corporations asking them to take
a stand on the issue. On Tuesday, Burk said she had received only
five responses, though the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee and
the chairman of American Express both said they would speak to
other club members about admitting women.
"The charitable thing to say is they haven't had time,'' she
said. "Some have clearly had time, others haven't.''