AUGUSTA, Ga., April 7 -- Martha Burk continued her campaign to convince Augusta National to invite its first woman member by releasing a letter she has sent to the chief executive officers of the three television sponsors of the Masters requesting their practices regarding the hiring, compensation and promotion of women.
After two years without TV sponsors, this year's tournament is being sponsored by ExxonMobil, SBC Communications and IBM.
"All of these companies have policies against underwriting discrimination and all are in violation of those policies" by agreeing to sponsor telecasts on USA and CBS, said Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations. "It's incumbent on them to provide data proving that they in fact do not discriminate against women in the workplace."
Burk also said if the three companies do not comply with her request, they could face sexual discrimination legal action. The NCWO had previously enlisted the services of the Washington law firm of Mehri and Skalet to target eight major Wall Street companies, all headed by Augusta National members, in possible sexual discrimination litigation.
Last week in San Francisco, a suit was filed in federal court claiming sexual discrimination against four women brokers by Smith Barney, the brokerage arm of Citigroup. The chairman of the board of Citigroup, Sanford Weill, is an Augusta member.
"Some of the titans of industry who are members of Augusta National have a choice," Mehri said. "Either stand by their corporate credos or stand behind [Augusta National chairman William "Hootie" Johnson]. Augusta National members hide behind Hootie, but they can't hide behind the evidence."
Johnson said Wednesday he would make no comment on the issue of women members at the club.
Nicklaus Hits Green
Jack Nicklaus teed off for his 45th Masters appearance late Thursday afternoon with a typically massive gallery. Walking outside the ropes were his wife, Barbara, his son Steve and four-month pregnant daughter-in-law Kristen, still grieving over the death of their 17-month-old son, Jake, last month in an accidental drowning in a poolside hot tub.
Nicklaus, 65, decided to come here last week at Steve's insistence.
Another son, Jackie, was carrying his father's bag, and Jack Nicklaus gave the crowd a thrill with a birdie on the second hole. He was even through his first six holes, played the front nine in 2-over 38 and was at 4 over par when play was halted by darkness. Nicklaus has missed the cut in his last three appearances and did not play here in 2002 while recovering from hip replacement surgery.
Nick Faldo, a three-time Masters champion, withdrew after playing eight holes in 4 over par after hurting his back on his fourth chip shot at the second hole.
"It's just gone tight and I can't make a backswing or a follow through, so I think I'm in trouble," said Faldo, also a part-time analyst on ABC's golf coverage. "It's funny, I can hit a bag full of drivers, but with a shorter shot with a wedge, it does something to me. It just bites. I'm trying to strengthen it and work on it. Good timing, and this place of all places . . . It's peach cobbler time. That's what you do when you come to Georgia, isn't it?"