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Golf: Augusta's Johnson gets last (dumb) word

Thursday, April 24, 2003

By Gerry Dulac, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

If he had kept quiet just a little while longer, if he had kept up the public posture that perhaps one day he and his members would relent on their all-male membership policy, Hootie Johnson easily would have come out in front of Martha Burk in their two-horse race about gender equality.

 
 

Golf Notebook: 4/24/03

   
 

For starters, Burk's much-hyped demonstration outside the gates of the Augusta National Golf Club was a bigger flop than Phil Mickelson, featuring more police cars than supporters. Also, nobody in America was complaining about a lack of commercials -- save for a public-service advertisement about The First Tee program -- during the broadcast of the Masters.

What's more, even Johnson's harshest detractors were as least willing to concede he might one day allow a female to join Augusta National, thereby giving the Masters chairman, in 'Burgh terms, a little slack.

But, perhaps in a fit of manly pride, perhaps because the National Council of Womens' Organizations had left Augusta as disappointed as Tiger Woods, Johnson felt compelled to open his mouth one more time. And this time he will regret it.

Two days after Mike Weir provided a gutsy and dramatic end to the 67th Masters, Johnson told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Augusta National will "never" admit a female member. This did not include his now infamous "at the point of bayonet" utterance.

This was plain, simple, direct.

"There never will be a female member, six months after the Masters, a year, 10 years, or ever," Johnson told the newspaper.

At his State of the Masters address just six days earlier, a meeting which drew a packed room of national media and between 50 to 60 green-jacketed Augusta members, Johnson was a lot more conciliatory when he said: "There may well come a time when we include women as members of our club, and that remains true. However, I want to emphasize we have no timetable and our membership is very comfortable with our present status."

Who is the bigger fool?

The people who believed Johnson and took him at his word?

Or Johnson?

By making that statement, Johnson did more than do major damage to his reputation as a civil-rights advocate who once supported black political candidates in South Carolina. He also put many of his members in a precarious position, now forcing them to decide if they want to remain as members at a club that will "never" admit a female. They can no longer wink and elbow the guy next to him when mentioning the possibility of a female getting a green jacket.

On top of all that, it has managed to inject even more fuel in Burk's crusade at a time when it was leaking oil.

That can mean only one thing.

Another year of a commercial-free Masters.

Trivia

Which player has the longest active streak of consecutive appearances in the U.S. Open? Answer at end.

Beginners Academy

John Boynton has a concept and a Web site. Now he is trying to develop a program he hopes will indoctrinate youths to the game of golf.

Boynton, an Allison Park resident who caddies at Oakmont Country Club, is bringing his Beginners Golf Academy -- for children ages 8 to 13 -- to several driving ranges, courses and par-3s in Western Pennsylvania this summer.

Among the participating sites are Cool Springs, Scally's, North and South Park golf courses, Murrysville Golf Club, The Golf Resort in Plum and the Mars Driving Range. There are five- and four-week sessions in which youths receive nine hours of instruction, two hours of golf etiquette and play two nine-hole events plus a family event.

"We want to give them the right mental approach to the game and practice," said Boynton, whose background is in education. "I'm an educator and we have five instructors who are used to managing children and fun programs."

For more information about the program, go to www.bgakids.com.

Raven opens

The Raven Golf Club, the spectacular Gary Player design at Snowshow (W.Va.) Mountain Resort, has opened for play. Rated one of Top 100 Modern Courses and the No. 1 public course in West Virginia by Golfweek, the Raven features elevation changes of 200 feet and great vistas of the Allegheny Mountain Range. Visit their website at www.snowshoemtn.com.

Quotable

Douglas Johnson, former operator of the city-owned George Wright Golf Course in Hyde Park, a Boston surburb, on why he refused ministers who asked to play for free: "I'd ask them, 'What are you going to give me for free? Are you going to say an extra prayer for me when I'm gone?'"

Dissa and data

The Shop & Save/Westmoreland Regional Hospital Best of the Best Golf Classic, featuring area pros and former Pirates players, will be May 17-19 at Totteridge Golf Club. As part of the event, male and female golfers from area high schools will compete in an 18-hole event May 17 to win one of three spots in the pro-am tournament and a scholarship to benefit their school. That also will be staged at Totteridge. Call, 724-832-4155.

Citiparks begins its fifth season of beginners golf clinics Tuesday at Schenley Park Golf Club. The two-hour clinics, available to children ages 7 to 13, begin at 5:30 p.m. and are available Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the spring. Session 1 is April 29, May 6 and May 13, Session 2 is April 30, May 7 and May 14 and Session 3 is May 1, 8 and 15. Call, 412-255-2493.

Former Oakmont teaching instructor Rick Martino, director of instruction for the PGA of America, will appear Tuesday on the Golf Channel's "Academy Live." Martino will discuss the PGA's "Play Golf America" program in which recreational golfers can receive a free lesson from a PGA teaching professional in May.

Trivia answer

Hale Irwin recently accepted an invitation to compete in his 33rd consecutive U.S. Open, most among active players. Irwin won the Open in 1974, 1979 and 1990.


Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1466.

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