Burk to talk to sponsors of other PGA events
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.
|“||Hootie is right, and Martha is right. That's the problem. ”|
|— Tigers Woods on The Masters issue|
Now Burk wants to take it a step further, pressuring sponsors of other tournaments.
"I expect to be having a conversation with PGA Tour sponsors,'' she said.
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 money list.
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 back down.
"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.''
Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press
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