Augusta National Chairman Criticizes Governor's Comments On Club's Membership

Friday, March 21st 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- The chairman of Augusta National Golf Club chastised Georgia's governor for suggesting there is something wrong with the club's all-men membership.

Hootie Johnson wrote a letter responding to a March 5 newspaper article in which Gov. Sonny Perdue said he believes everyone would like to see women admitted to the club at some point. The governor also said he favors local control of the club that hosts the Masters.

Johnson took issue with Perdue's suggestion in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the club wants to do the right thing and admit women, but feels "trapped" by the demands of protesters.

"I can only infer from your comments that your opinion is that single-gender, private clubs such as ours are somehow morally wrong," Johnson wrote in a letter also dated March 5.

Johnson asked whether the governor believes Spelman College, a historically black women's school in Atlanta, and the Junior League should admit men.

Johnson ended his letter by writing: "For the governor of our state to suggest that we should capitulate to special interest groups when the Constitution is on our side and we have done nothing wrong is a bit surprising and very disappointing."

Perdue spokeswoman Kim King said Friday the governor would not make any further comment.

Last year Johnson sent a strong letter to Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, after she urged the golf club to invite a woman to join. Johnson responded that he would not do so "at the point of a bayonet."

Burk's group and the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition plan to protest at the club April 12, during the third round of the Masters.