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Finchem: Tour still recognizes event

10/30/2002

ATLANTA -- PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem refused to back
down from his position on the Augusta National controversy, saying
the tour will recognize the Masters as an official event and he
expects his players to compete.

That brought a sharp reply from the National Council of Women's
Organizations, whose leader accused Finchem of ''stonewalling'' on
the issue of Augusta's all-male membership.

''If I were his board, I would be asking who he works for:
Augusta or the PGA Tour?'' Martha Burk said Wednesday. ''Clearly,
the position he has taken is going to be an apologist for
Augusta.''

Burk has accused the PGA Tour of creating a double standard by
counting the Masters among its official events, even though the
tour has a policy not to hold tournaments on courses that
discriminate.

In an Aug. 20 letter to Burk, Finchem said the tour does not
have a contract with the club, cannot require Augusta National to
follow tour rules and had no plans to stop recognizing the Masters
as one of golf's four major championships.

During a 45-minute news conference at the season-ending Tour
Championship, Finchem declined to elaborate beyond the letter or be
drawn further into the debate over whether Augusta National should
admit a female member.

''As far as I know, there's going to be a tournament at Augusta
-- the Masters -- and it's going to be on CBS television, and our
players are going to go play,'' Finchem said. ''What else happens,
I'm not going to speculate on that.''

At one point he said, ''I know you're going to try to move me
out of the confines of my statement. You're not going to be
successful.''

Later, Finchem told a group of reporters he was comfortable with
the tour's position.

''It is a position based on the evaluation of all factors,'' he
said.

The PGA Tour controls 45 tournaments a year, although it doesn't
run any of the four majors -- the Masters, the U.S. Open, the
British Open or the PGA Championship.

It considers them as official events, and counts money earned
toward the PGA Tour money list. Winners of the four majors received
a five-year exemption on tour.

The tour stopped playing its events at male-only clubs in 1990,
eliminating Cypress Point from the rotation at the Pebble Beach
National Pro-Am, and leaving Butler National at the Western Open
outside Chicago.

Some of the players rallied behind Finchem.

Former PGA champion David Toms said while he thought Finchem
could be more vocal, the commissioner should not stop counting the
Masters as official.

''That would be totally giving in to this liberal cause,'' Toms
said. ''We made a stance several years ago when we stopped going to
clubs that discriminate. We've made our case on what we believe.
Augusta National can take care of this.''

Charles Howell III, who grew up about five miles from Augusta
National, said the tour should focus on its own events.

''The tour's job is to run golf tournaments for us,'' he said.

Burk said her next stop might be the corporate sponsors of PGA
Tour events, such as Coca-Cola, the presenting sponsor of the Tour
Championship.

''As a tour sponsor, they have an obligation to take a stand,''
Burk said. ''They're sponsoring an organization that puts forth one
set of principles and acts on another. If I were a sponsor, I would
seriously question that.''

Tournament sponsors are meeting this weekend at PGA Tour
headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson dropped the Masters'
television sponsors two months ago to keep them out of the fray,
leading to the only commercial-free broadcast of a sporting event
on network television.

The PGA Tour is far more dependent on its corporate sponsors,
which help foot the bill for the massive prize money.

Finchem said he would not discuss any conversations he has had
with sponsors, nor would he speculate on what might happen if they
got involved.

''I'm not going to react to hypothetical situations, and that's
what you're suggesting,'' Finchem said. ''If situations arise,
we'll deal with them.''

Burk said if the tour were to drop the Masters as one of its
official events, that would put more pressure on Augusta to admit a
female member.

''More importantly, it would put the PGA Tour on record of
standing behind the principles that it claims to have,'' she said.