The push for female members at Augusta National Golf Club got
its biggest boost yet Monday when the head of the U.S. Olympic
Committee said he will work aggressively with other club members to
Lloyd Ward, one of a handful of black members at Augusta
National, said he was ''committed to breaking down barriers which
exclude women from membership at Augusta in the weeks and months
Amid signs that some Augusta National members were backing away
from the club's hard-line stance on the issue, the former president
of Ford Motor Co. also said he thought there would be female
members at the exclusive club that hosts the Masters golf
''I think there will be (a woman member) at some time in the
future,'' Harold ''Red'' Poling said from his suburban Detroit
home. ''I have a lot of faith in Hootie. Everyone would like to see
issues such as this resolved.''
Ward made his comments in a letter to Martha Burk, chairwoman of
the National Council of Women's Organizations, which is
spearheading the drive to include women among Augusta National's
It was the first time Ward had commented on the issue since
saying in April he would work behind the scenes to allow women into
the club, and it was the strongest public statement in support of
female members by any member yet.
''I am working with others who are members of Augusta National
Golf Club who share the belief that the organization should include
women in its membership ranks,'' Ward wrote. ''It is my intent to
aggressively work for that reform.''
Club spokesman Glenn Greenspan said Augusta National would have
no comment on the issue, likely to be a matter of hot debate when
the club reopens later this month after a summer shutdown in
Burk, though, said the fact that some members are now speaking
publicly means the argument over female members will only grow
''I applaud their leadership,'' Burk said. ''I believe others
will join them and this will be resolved sooner rather than
Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson, who is recovering from
heart surgery, vowed in June that the club would not be ''bullied''
into admitting women as members.
Last month, Johnson dropped three TV sponsors from the 2003
Masters in an attempt to shield the club from further controversy.
Burk earlier wrote to more than 20 CEOs who are members of
Augusta National, asking them to admit a woman. She received a
reply last week from a representative of Citigroup chairman Sanford
I. Weill expressing his guarded support for female members.
Ward's letter went beyond that, though, and seemed to confirm
earlier reports by The New York Times that there is a group of
members inside Augusta National pushing for the reform.
Ward is in a delicate position. He is not only one of a few
black members at Augusta but also head of the U.S. Olympic
organization that pushes strongly for equal rights in sports.
''He's been very reluctant to make any public statement
before,'' Burk said. ''Maybe he was empowered by Sanford Weill's
Burk wasn't so happy about two other responses she received
Monday from Augusta members. One came from Christopher B. Galvin,
chief executive of Motorola, and the other from Rep. Amo Houghton,
Both said in brief replies that they supported equal rights but
that the matter was one for the club to discuss in private.
''It's absolutely astounding that a sitting congressman would
have the gall to give the back of his hand to half of his
constituents,'' Burk said.