Augusta issue evenly divides polled public

Posted: Sunday, December 01, 2002

Americans are evenly divided over whether Augusta National Golf Club should have female members, and three-fourths believe Tiger Woods should play in the Masters despite the dispute, an Associated Press poll found.

When asked which perspective came closer to their own views, 46 percent of respondents said Augusta National has a right to have an all-male membership, while the same percentage said a club holding such a prestigious golf tournament should have female members.

Seventy-five percent in the survey, conducted for the AP by ICR/International Communications Research of Media, Pa., said Woods should play in the tournament in April, while 15 percent said he should not. Woods, who has won the Masters three times, including the last two, plans to play, although he has said he favors admitting a female member to the club. A New York Times editorial on Nov. 18 suggested Woods should not play.

The question about the club's membership got different reactions from women and men. Women were slightly more inclined than men to say the club should have female members. Younger adults also were more likely to feel that way, and the sentiment declined steadily among older groups.

Those who follow professional golf, just under a fourth of the population, or 23 percent, were more inclined to defend Augusta National's right to have an all-male membership. The poll of 1,004 people was conducted Nov. 22-26 and has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The controversy doesn't appear to be hurting the image of the Masters. Only one in five said the club's all-male membership makes them view the tournament less favorably, and three-fourths said it has no effect on their view of the event.

Among them was Jill Jones, a 27-year-old administrator from Pomona, N.Y. ''Women can go have their own club, and so can men,'' she said. The club contends it does not have exclusionary membership policies, although it did not have a black member until 1990, and it has not had a female member in its 70-year history. Chairman Hootie Johnson has said the club might one day allow a female member.

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