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Commentary: Circus comes to Augusta National

By Brandon Lombardi
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday April 10, 2003

The sports world is a very strange place these days and definitely getting stranger.

The Kansas City Royals are undefeated, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have more wins than the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team with an orange as its mascot won the NCAA Basketball National Championship and Lebron James is joking about attending college.

Yet, all of this madness has been overshadowed now that our country is at war. It is a sobering thought to know that while I roam our beautiful campus, with palm trees swaying in the warm spring breeze, people my own age are in Iraq strapped with M-16 machine guns, fighting for people they have never met rather than sitting at Dirtbag's enjoying a frosty cold one.

It is said that war puts things in perspective. All of our petty day-to-day problems seem to fade away knowing that halfway across the world people are dying for a noble cause.

However, one person who hasn't taken the time to put the war and the world we live in into perspective is Martha Burk, president of the National Council of Women's Organizations. Burk, as you may know, is the guiding light behind the controversy surrounding this week's Masters Golf tournament in Augusta, Ga.

In a controversy that has spanned the last 10 months, Burk and Augusta National Golf Club chairman William "Hootie" Johnson, have very publicly battled about the membership practices of the exclusive club.

Burk has argued that Augusta National has a moral obligation to look past its constitutional right to exclude women and accept a female member to their club.

Johnson has argued that as a private club, Augusta National will not fold to the pressure of an outside organization.

It has created quite the controversy in the sports world as athletes and PGA Tour players duck the controversy, but individuals like Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition are ready to storm the gates of Augusta.

The lunacy is not exclusive to Martha Burk and her compatriots, several groups have petitioned to protest Burk in Augusta during this Master's week, including a splinter group of the KKK ready to fight for the rights of the members of Augusta to discriminate as they please.

The fact that Burk is still protesting for a woman member at Augusta during this time of war seems rather ridiculous. Is there no greater issue facing women today than getting a member into a private club that is so exclusive that even Bill Gates can't become a member?

In her quest to make a name for herself and topple Augusta National, has Burk not had time to flip on Fox News Channel or CNN and see that in Iraq, people are suffering much greater injustices than not being allowed to join a private golf club?

Burk has gone so far as to exploit the war for her own gain. When talking about CBS broadcasting the Masters commercial-free this year at the behest of Augusta National to keep its sponsors from having to deal with the pressure from Burk and the NCWO, Burk stated: "With close to a quarter-million women in the armed services defending the values of the United States, many of them in Iraq, we think it is offensive to them for CBS to showcase a venue that excludes them."

The Masters itself has been overshadowed by Burk. Sports pages across the country are more worried about the protests and the circus surrounding this issue than they are with Tiger Woods gunning for his third-straight green jacket.

The players would rather discuss the war, or the effect the three days of rain has had on the course, than discuss membership practices and Martha Burk. The players know their place in the grand scheme of things; they realize the unimportance of this battle.

The players understand that they play a game for a living and are very privileged in doing so. Do some of them think that Augusta should admit women? Of course, but given the circumstances of the world, they know when to keep their mouths shut.

Martha Burk should at least concede the fact that there are greater issues facing the world today than women not being given the famous green jacket symbolizing their membership of Augusta National Golf Club.

Yet, she has brought her tent and her own clowns to town and has turned one of the greatest sporting events in the world into a three-ring circus.

So, as I sit here sipping a cold one at Dirtbag's, cheering on fellow student and golfer Ricky Barnes, I raise my glass to Martha Burk.

Thank you for ruining the Masters, and congratulations on your ability to overlook the more important things in life and focus on the trivial.

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