Skip to comments.Augusta Fears That Its Golf Party May Be Spoiled
Posted on 11/16/2002 3:29:37 PM PST by GeneD
AUGUSTA, Ga., Nov. 16 Dusty Avery has a big, beautiful house, but no one to party in it.
By this point last year, Mrs. Avery, the wife of a rich dentist, had rented her home for thousands of dollars to Coca-Cola to use during the Masters golf tournament in April. Executives feasted in her dining room, smoked on her patio and, at the end of the night, crashed in her bedroom.
But this year, there are no takers. No soft-drink suits. Nobody.
"We don't need the money like a lot of people do," Mrs. Avery said as she passed through her butler's pantry. "But it's the tradition we'll miss. It felt right to have Coke here."
Over the years, the Masters tournament has evolved into one of the most extravagant parties in sports, a weeklong Chanel and caviar fest. Augusta plays host, thoroughly and happily.
But this spring, Augusta may get a different taste of the Masters, and it may not be so sweet. Instead of Coca-Cola executives showing up along the banks of the Savannah River, it may be angry women in green burkas.
The Augusta National Golf Club, the fabled course that has been the site of the Masters since its inception in 1934, does not accept women as members. The National Council of Women's Organizations has been threatening to protest. This week, William Johnson, the club's chairman, who is known as Hootie, said there was no way a woman would get in this year.
"Maybe one day," he said.
In this showdown, the people of Augusta will be the ones to lose. Most members of the superexclusive club, which once put Bill Gates on a waiting list, are not from here. Neither are the professional golfers or corporate executives.
But the busboys are. And the caterers. And the drivers and the teenagers who sponge up the floors, and people like Mrs. Avery, who seems anxious about the idea of spending the tournament at her four-bedroom house, which for the last 10 years she has vacated during Masters week.
"Isn't it a shame?" she asked.
Although some Augusta officials are bullish about the tournament, there are signs that business is off.
Citigroup, I.B.M., American Express, Georgia Pacific and Coca-Cola have canceled their plans. In years past, many of these companies had rented some of the city's nicer homes for as much as $25,000 a week to entertain clients. Party planners are logging fewer orders.
Vera Stewart, who founded the Very Vera catering company, said 40 percent of her business was "Masters-based."
Mrs. Stewart glowed for a moment when she recalled soirees last year, especially the Southern-themed ones complete with rocking chairs, shrimp dishes and "tons and tons of azaleas."
But then she stopped cold. "I've already lost several contracts," she said. "I cannot believe, after all these years, this is happening to us."
Augustans have come to depend on Masters week, which attracts thousands of well-heeled visitors (it is a golf tournament, after all). More than 2,000 families vacate their homes. Schools close. Teachers, bus drivers and workers of all stripes take jobs as waiters and servers, earning $500 a night in tips.
The area's 6,000 hotel rooms are booked solid, at jacked-up rates. The West Bank Inn, with its expansive views of a parking lot, usually charges $39.95 a night. During the Masters, it's $200.
"The economic impact is immeasurable," said Barry E. White, executive director of the city's convention and visitor bureau.
Augusta National is like Graceland for golfers, a beacon that attracts die-hard fans year round to this city of 200,000 on the Georgia-South Carolina line. Because of this, most residents feel immensely loyal to the country club, even if they will never be allowed to set foot inside. The club is secretive, not even disclosing the number of tickets it issues for the Masters. It did not accept any black members until 1990.
Brave is the soul who will walk the streets of Augusta and utter a word against Augusta National.
"Maybe I shouldn't be saying this because I'm from here," said Robert Morris, seller of building supplies. "But that club is pretty elitist. I think they're getting their due."
Augustans say they are not angry at the club but at those who are pushing it to accept women, like Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations. She started the campaign by writing a letter in April to the country club, asking it to accept women.
An alternative weekly newspaper here, The Metropolitan Spirit, called Ms. Burk a "shrill whiner," a "feminazi" and a "male-bashing nut."
Ms. Burk said the animus was misplaced. "I understand how people in Augusta must feel," she said. "But they need to direct their frustration against those who have the power to change things."
Ms. Burk also said the protests were out of her hands.
Already, she said, dozens of women's groups had volunteered to go to the Masters and demonstrate. One group said they would don burkas, the full-body shawls worn by women in Afghanistan.
The burkas will be forest green, like the ceremonial blazer given to the golfer who wins the tournament.
Despite the tensions, Ed Presnell, president of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, said, "It's going to be another great Masters year." Hotel and rental bookings were up from last year, Mr. Presnell said, though he acknowledged that last year's business was down because of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Mark Gibbons, a City Hall aide, said the controversy might actually help the local economy.
"Hey, protesters got to eat, too," he said. "And they need somewhere to stay."
I hope they do don their "Burkas".....to hide their well fed, well educated, primped up, plastic surgery enhanced (or botox) bodies.....If they really wanted to help, they'd be helping women elsewhere find WORK....not crashing another place while the guys play golf. SHEESH.
So, they are equating women not getting to play golf with women who were forced to wear burkas and lived in an environment in which they could be beaten to death for the slightest infraction.
I hate the left.
My guess is Mr. Johnson will resign after this year and the next President of the club will invite a woman to join - a very carefully selected woman who won't push anything. Then this whole controversy will die.
So Ms. Burk plops a turd in the punchbowl and wants to blame the hosts.
How stupid is this guy? He sells BUILDING SUPPLIES and mouths off about the wealthy.
Yessir. I do believe this is what will happen and we won't hear a peep from the new woman member. She will be a lady with class and grace, unwilling to damage the club with any behavior that would draw attention to her or the issue of membership. End of controversy.
1. I support Hootie and his principled stand 1,000%. Private clubs have a right to select their members. Even if it costs me money out of pocket as it seems very likely to do.
2. I am not a member of ANC.
3. Women regularly play at ANC. There is nothing in the Club by-laws restricting membership to men.
The NYT with its usual penchant for accuracy got it wrong. COke, IBM, Citigroup, etc. did paid advertising last year. This year all advertising sponsorships were cancelled by Hootie to avoid having ANC's friends subjected to pressure. All these companies and others may still rent houses for their executives and guests. And I hope they will have the moral courage to do so.
If I were a shareholder in a corporation, and saw that the CEO had insisted "on principle" to sponsor someone or something that brought disrepute on the company, and caused me to lose money, I'd want him fired.
I don't invest to lose money on some quixotic statement against feminism, etc.
It's truly a stupid, stupid "cause" whose only reason for being is to gin up publicity and garner donations for radical causes that no one would give a sh*t about otherwise.
10-4 on either or both of these ladies. Perhaps Lynn Cheney would be a good choice also? I'd love to see the feminazzi's take Mrs. Cheney on. One very tough, bright lady is she!
Augusta wants to remain the elitist boy's club then that is fine with me....they can do it....
what they can not do, and will not be allowed to continue to do, is to act like a national treasure and tell half of the population that they will never be members no matter how much money they make....
This should have been dealt with in a gracious manner...now look....it will be a Jesse Jackson fest for sure....
Yes. All it takes is the willingness to 'look mean.' Once we
can overcome that obstacle, a whole new way of persuasion
The founders and members (all men, BTW) of Augusta National created a national treasure, and they continue to be one. It's not an act.