AUGUSTA, Ga., April 6 -- William "Hootie" Johnson, chairman of Augusta National and tournament chairman for the Masters, offered what has become a familiar refrain on a sore subject for him Wednesday when he was asked if the all-male club could foresee admitting a woman.
"Well, we've adopted a new policy," he said at his annual pre-Masters news conference. "We don't talk about club matters, period."
Augusta National Chairman William "Hootie" Johnson would not discuss the possibility of admitting women.
(Morry Gash -- AP)
Reminded that he had spoken about such matters in the past, he said: "I said we have a new policy. We don't talk about club matters, period."
A few minutes later, however, he did talk about a club matter of some significance -- the television sponsorship of the 2005 Masters after going the last two tournaments with none. Augusta National had become embroiled in a major controversy over its exclusionary membership before the 2003 Masters, and Johnson said then that the club and CBS would take on the expense of televising the event with no outside sponsors.
This year, ExxonMobil, IBM and SBC Communications will be the sponsors on USA Network and CBS and, as usual, the telecast will be limited to only four minutes per hour for commercials.
"We could go on indefinitely without sponsors," Johnson said. "However, we do have a huge project underway in moving 3,000 cars off our grounds onto properties adjacent to the club, and then preparing that land for those 3,000 cars and then building the practice facility we think the Masters deserves. This will be pretty demanding financially."
On other matters, Johnson said the club has no plans to ask players to use a standard golf ball and "we are hopeful and we're encouraged that the governing bodies and the PGA Tour, are addressing this problem. It is a problem for the game, not just for Augusta National and the Masters."
Ben Brundred, chairman of the board of governors for Washington's Booz Allen Classic, said Wednesday that the tournament's longtime venue, the TPC at Avenel, likely will begin significant renovations to the course after the 2006 event, which will be held at Avenel.
The tournament will be played this year at Congressional, a move made when tournament officials initially thought they would be able to begin tweaking the course and clubhouse this year.
Brundred said the process of obtaining permits for all the changes at Avenel has taken longer than anticipated, but work will begin immediately after the 2006 tournament. He also said the plan is for the tournament to return to Avenel in 2007, and that Booz Allen wants to keep it at that site because of its parking lots, convenient location and stadium-golf layout.