Martha Burk ‘gratified’ by talk of Augusta compromise

Martha Burk is convinced her campaign to get Augusta National to admit its first female is one step closer to fruition.

Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, said she was encouraged by a report that several members of Augusta National would seek to have the club admit at least one female. And, she said her group might have prompted the action.

“I’m gratified that some of the members are starting to see that this is good for the club,” Martha Burk said. “I hope now that they’ve initiated some action in this area, some of the other members will join them.”

Burk said the letters her organization sent to several prominent members of Augusta could have prompted the members to seek the compromise reported in the New York Times.

About a dozen of the roughly 300 members of the club reportedly sought an internal compromise to end a conflict with women’s groups critical of the club’s all-male membership.

Burk said about a half-dozen more letters were sent out over the weekend to other prominent members, including Louis V. Gerstner, chairman of IBM.

“It’s something of an embarrassment when a major company spends a lot of money and effort to recruit women employees, and then the CEO is a member of the club that excludes them,” Burk said. “We’re asking for on-the-record responses to reconcile this with their corporate policy.”

Club chairman William “Hootie” Johnson said he would not be “bullied” into allowing women to be members after Burk wrote to him in June about the issue.

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

In another newspaper report, USA Today ran a list of Augusta National members in its Sept. 27 edition.

Among the members listed were well-known golf personalities, including Arnold Palmer; U.S. Golf Association vice president Fred Ridley; former USGA presidents Harry W. Easterly Jr. and F. Morgan “Buzz” Taylor Jr.; Jack Vickers, founder of Castle Pines Golf Club and The International event on the PGA Tour; Richard J. Ferris, co-owner of Pebble Beach Golf Links; former Royal & Ancient Golf Club secretary Michael F. Bonallack; longtime amateur and now Senior PGA Tour player John Harris; amateur and former Walker Cup captain P. Dan Yates Jr. and his uncle, Charlie Yates, who played in the first Masters in 1934.

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