Hootie tells paper membership supports his stance

Updated: April 21, 2003, 1:18 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

If Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson is a man of his word, his prestigious, all-male golf club will never admit a female member.

In a one-on-one interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution following the completion of The Masters, Johnson said "there never will be a female member, six months after the Masters, a year, 10 years, or ever."

An Augusta National spokesman backed off Johnson's statement, saying Wednesday that it "reflects the political situation and the political pressure put on the club and does not reflect on the future."

The spokesman, Glenn Greenspan, said Augusta has not changed its stance that the club could someday admit a woman member but that it would do so on its own timetable and not under pressure. He said Johnson's comment was reflective of his stance as long as there was outside pressure on the club.

According to the Journal-Constitution's story, Augusta National's membership is solidly behind Johnson.

"Shortly after that fellow Thomas Wyman withdrew his membership in sympathy with the women," Johnson said, "we got out a letter to every member of the club, offering them the privilege of withdrawing if the issue bothered them.

"We didn't have one acceptance. Not one."

Johnson went a step further, addressing rumors that after The Masters, a female member, such as Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez or Judy Bell, the former president of the U.S. Golf Association, might be accepted.

"There never has been, at any time, any consideration of Augusta National taking in women members," Johnson told the Journal-Constitution.

Martha Burk, head of the National Council of Women's Organizations, said at the conclusion of The Masters on Sunday that she hoped to resume within two weeks her campaign to get a female member into Augusta.

Burk said corporate leaders who are members of Augusta will be targeted. She hopes to set up individual meetings to urge them to take a stand against what she considers sex discrimination at the club.

"The club needs to open its doors to women, but the larger goal, and it has been for months, has always been to make sex discrimination as unacceptable in the halls of power as race discrimination is,'' Burk said Sunday.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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