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Augusta May Admit Female

NEW YORK -- The chairwoman of a national women's group was encouraged Sunday by a report that several members of Augusta National would seek to have the club admit at least one female.
``I'm gratified that some of the members are starting to see that this is good for the club,'' Martha Burk said by phone Sunday. ``I hope now that they've initiated some action in this area, some of the other members will join them.''
Burk, the chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations, thinks the letters her organization sent to several prominent members of Augusta ' which hosts the Masters ' on Thursday could have prompted the members to seek the compromise reported in the New York Times.
The paper reported Sunday that about a dozen of the roughly 300 members of the club sought an internal compromise to end a conflict with women's groups critical of the club's all-male membership.
Burk said about a half-dozen more letters were sent out over the weekend to other prominent members, including Louis V. Gerstner, chairman of IBM.
``It's something of an embarrassment when a major company spends a lot of money and effort to recruit women employees and then the CEO is a member of the club that excludes them,'' Burk said. ``We're asking for on-the-record responses to reconcile this with their corporate policy.''
Club chairman Hootie Johnson said he would not be ``bullied'' into allowing women to be members after Burk wrote to him in June about the issue.
Last month, Johnson dropped the three TV sponsors for the 2003 Masters. The move, an attempt to shield the club from further controversy, creates the only commercial-free sports broadcast in the United States.
The newspaper reported that several members planned to come up with a compromise, such as admitting one or two women as members before or shortly after the next Masters, in April. They said they will press their case to the membership when the club reopens next month.
The 69-year-old Johnson, recovering from heart surgery, declined the Times' requests for an interview, the newspaper said. A spokesman for Augusta National also told the newspaper the club would not comment.