Martha Burk Gets Her Just Due

By Mark Cardon

Martha Burk may be having the last laugh. In 2003, at the rain-plagued Masters at Augusta National, Burk, of the National Council of Women's Organizations, urged the club to include women among its members.   

She staged a protest and very few journalists covered the event. It was held in a muddy field a half-mile and across the street from the hallowed grounds of Augusta National Golf Club.  More than 500 media representatives were more concerned about staying dry than dealing with a history-altering civil action.

There was an inflatable pig and an Elvis impersonator. There was a flag-draped drag queen named Georgina Z. Bush and a Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard named J.J. Harper. One male chauvinist held a sign that urged women to “Make My Dinner.” Another man showed up in a tuxedo, holding a sign that said “Formal Protest.”

On Monday, Burk got her just due. For the first time in its 80-year history, Augusta National Golf Club has female members, inviting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore to become the first women in green jackets when the club opens for a new season in October. Both accepted.

This is a big step forward for Augusta National, a club that has objected to change to preserve its prestigious history.

"This is a joyous occasion," Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said Monday.

Payne and his cohorts could go a step forward by altering their stance on former champions being allowed to compete year-after-year.  It is a nice gesture, but in reality, they have made the course too long and difficult for any of the former champs over 50-years-old.

As Jack Nicklaus commented a few years ago at the Masters, only about 10 percent of the field is capable of winning. Allow the former champs to play in their own event on one of the non-tournament days of the festive week. But that’s another story for another day. For now, we need to laud the Augusta National membership for a long overdue move.


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