AUGUSTA, Ga., April 4 -- The PGA Tour, the U.S. Golf Association and the PGA of America each have a rule that would prohibit them from holding any of their events at the all-male Augusta National Golf Club. Yet nearly three years since Augusta National and its membership became the subject of debate, representatives from these governing bodies of American golf began conducting business as usual Monday at the Masters and, in some cases, helping the club run the tournament.
They will attend club functions, walk in the galleries or talk business in the clubhouse or while dining under umbrellas overlooking the practice green and first tee. The top rules officials, specialists in course set-up and several press officers from all three organizations will be here as well, working in the tournament's infrastructure.
Faced with the opportunity to take a stand against a membership policy their organizations say they oppose, golf representatives are "all willing to leave their ethics at the clubhouse door," said Marcia Chambers, author of "The Unplayable Lie: The Untold Story of Women and Discrimination in American Golf."
The LPGA, which also has an anti-discrimination rule, has not been asked by the club to send any working officials to the Masters for the last several years, but Commissioner Ty Votaw will be here. Votaw has been the only chief executive of a major American governing body to say he believes Augusta National should admit women.
"I go to the Masters because there's business to be done," he said. "Our officials have not gone there the last few years. If they did ask us [to supply officials], I don't know what the decision would be."
Some of those working officials from the other three governing bodies will be paid by their respective organizations for their work here. Others will volunteer, with their expenses either covered by their employers or Augusta National. The Masters champion is given exemptions into the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open, and the winners of those two major events, as well as the PGA Tour's Players Championship, also earn exemptions into the Masters.
In 1990, all of the sport's governing bodies toughened their policies regarding discrimination at clubs seeking to host one of their events. Those policy changes were made after it was learned that Shoal Creek Golf Club in Birmingham, where the PGA of America was planning to conduct the 1990 PGA Championship, had no black members. In response, several major sponsors, including current Masters sponsor IBM, threatened to pull out of the event. Shoal Creek scrambled to invite a black member, and the tournament went on as scheduled.
Jim Awtrey, chief executive of the PGA of America, readily concedes his organization would not stage an event at Augusta National until it admits female members but said he had no problem justifying his presence here.
"I don't think it's a contradiction," he said. "We're supporting the Masters over the club itself. We're going there because of the tournament. It's one of four major championships, and the policy of the club is a separate issue. We have a long relationship with the Masters. I don't relate the championship to the club."
David Fay, executive director of the U.S. Golf Association, said the USGA's participation in the Masters "goes back a long way. It's an interesting question. I suppose [participating] is a question everyone has to answer their own way. We are invited, and we participate. Quite often in this world, there are shades of gray. . . . It's one of those situations where everyone can draw their own conclusions."
The current USGA president, Fred Ridley, and its vice president, Walter Driver, both volunteer officers, are members of Augusta National. Driver also is a member of Seminole in Florida, a club that has no female or black members and also would not be eligible to hold a USGA event.
PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said: "Historically, we send a small number of rules officials and other officials to all the majors, as they do for us at the Players Championship. We think it's a player service that is important to provide."
National Council of Women's Organizations chair Martha Burk, whose contentious exchange of letters with Augusta National Chairman William "Hootie" Johnson first brought the club's practices under scrutiny, has other thoughts about the PGA Tour.
"They're not willing to do anything," Burk said in an interview last week. "They have the biggest stick and they refuse to use it. It's just ridiculous. They're willing to ignore their own bylaws in the service of Augusta National. They all are, and all of them are in bed together."
Last year, Burk's organization won the right to stage a protest in front of the club, overturning a city ordinance that was ruled unconstitutional, but Burk will stay away from Augusta this year in favor of a different plan of attack.
The NCWO has aligned with the Washington law firm of Mehri & Skalet to investigate sexual discrimination against women in the financial industry. Eight high-profile financial firms were initially targeted, each with at least one Augusta National member serving either as CEO or chairman of the board: Citigroup, American Express, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Franklin Templeton, Berkshire Hathaway and Prudential.
Last Thursday, a sexual discrimination lawsuit was filed in federal district court in San Francisco accusing the brokerage firm of Smith Barney of systematically passing over four California women brokers when handing out lucrative accounts. Smith Barney is a unit of Citigroup Inc. Sanford Weill is chairman of the board of Citigroup Inc., and a member of Augusta National.
"These claims are entirely without merit," Citigroup said of the lawsuit in a prepared statement.