- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

ATLANTA (AP) PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem refused to back down from his position on the Augusta National controversy, saying the tour will recognize the Masters as an official event and he expects his players to compete.

That brought a sharp reply from the National Council of Women's Organizations, whose leader accused Finchem of "stonewalling" on the issue of Augusta's all-male membership.

"If I were his board, I would be asking who he works for Augusta or the PGA Tour?" Martha Burk said yesterday. "Clearly, the position he has taken is going to be an apologist for Augusta."

Burk has accused the PGA Tour of creating a double standard by counting the Masters among its official events, even though the tour has a policy not to hold tournaments on courses that discriminate.

In an Aug.20 letter to Burk, Finchem said the tour does not have a contract with the club, cannot require Augusta National to follow Tour rules and had no plans to stop recognizing the Masters as one of golf's four major championships.

During a 45-minute news conference at the season-ending Tour Championship, Finchem declined to elaborate beyond the letter or be drawn further into the debate over whether Augusta National should admit a female member.

"As far as I know, there's going to be a tournament at Augusta the Masters and it's going to be on CBS television, and our players are going to go play," Finchem said. "What else happens, I'm not going to speculate on that."

At one point he said, "I know you're going to try to move me out of the confines of my statement. You're not going to be successful."

Later, Finchem told a group of reporters he was comfortable with the Tour's position, adding, "It is a position based on the evaluation of all factors."

The PGA Tour controls 45 tournaments a year, although it doesn't run any of the four majors: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open or the PGA Championship. It considers them as official events, and counts money earned toward the PGA Tour money list. Winners of the four majors received a five-year exemption on tour.

The Tour stopped playing its events at male-only clubs in 1990, eliminating Cypress Point from the rotation at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and leaving Butler National at the Western Open outside Chicago.

Some of the players rallied behind Finchem. Former PGA champion David Toms said while he thought Finchem could be more vocal, the commissioner should not stop counting the Masters as official.

"That would be totally giving in to this liberal cause," Toms said. "We made a stance several years ago when we stopped going to clubs that discriminate. We've made our case on what we believe. Augusta National can take care of this."

Charles Howell III, who grew up about five miles from Augusta National, said the tour should focus on its own events.

"The Tour's job is to run golf tournaments for us," he said.

Burk said her next stop might be the corporate sponsors of PGA Tour events, such as Coca-Cola, the presenting sponsor of the Tour Championship.

"As a tour sponsor, they have an obligation to take a stand," Burk said. "They're sponsoring an organization that puts forth one set of principles and acts on another. If I were a sponsor, I would seriously question that."

Tournament sponsors are meeting this weekend at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

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