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Masters Protest Falls Short

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reacts as he listens during his monthly press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, Oct. 28, 2009.
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
Backed by about 50 supporters, Martha Burk's protest of the all-male membership at Augusta National golf club Saturday turned out to be much smaller and shorter than expected.

Inside the club's gates, Tiger Woods stumbled at first, then artfully revived his chance at an unprecedented third-straight Masters championship. After draining a three-foot putt he needed just to make the cut, Woods shot a 6-under 66 to move within four strokes of leader Jeff Maggert going into Sunday's final round.

There would be no such late rally for Burk's protest, which had cleared the way for seven hours of demonstrations by more than 200 people. Burk left after about an hour, and picketing by her National Council of Women's Organizations and Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition brought out about 50 people total.

Police said there were too many journalists milling around to get an exact head count. Seventeen people got off the single bus carrying Burk's supporters; a handful more, mostly young women, were already setting up their small stage, and about 20 Rainbow/PUSH protesters joined them.

Burk's strategy is economic now, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara: To "out" Augusta Club members who are corporate executives.

"You've got to make a choice — is it discrimination or is it dollars?" Burk said, threatening to boycott companies whose executives belong to the club. "Today we are protesters with placards. Tomorrow, women will protest with their pocketbooks."

Burk's target audience — Augusta National's green-jacketed members — were nowhere close. All were watching the tournament unfold while she spoke in a weedy, vacant lot a half-mile from the club's front gates.

The 5.1-acre field was hand-picked by Sheriff Ronald Strength after he received requests for more than 900 protesters. He denied Burk's permit to demonstrate by the gates, citing safety concerns because of heavy traffic, and she lost a court battle to move closer.

Burk still drew a small army of reporters, a handful of hecklers, and about 100 deputies and state troopers, even without the 224 protesters she initially planned to bring. She said she wasn't worried about the low turnout.

"I don't think we're hurt by that at all," she said. "We already know the women of America support us."

Other demonstrators of all designs joined the free-speech spectacle.

A single member of the Ku Klux Klan showed his support for Augusta National's right to exclude women. Joseph Harper of Cordele, Ga., who eschewed white robes for a plaid shirt and blue jeans, mostly sat under a tent, showing off pictures of his prized poodles. Burk had sought to embarrass the club by linking it to Harper, at one point giving up her stage to a 7-foot cardboard figure of a hooded Klansman.

"We're not all white trailer trash," Harper said into a bullhorn, but his voice was mostly drowned out by passing cars.

A man calling himself Georgina Z. Bush dressed in circus drag — clown makeup, black garter belt and an American flag as a shawl — and denounced the war in Iraq. An Elvis impersonator struck karate poses in his rhinestone jumpsuit in hopes of getting a Masters ticket. Frank Mizell, from Aiken, S.C., wore a sign saying: "I Will Kiss Martha Burk For a Ticket."

Burk's opponents seized on the sideshow atmosphere and low turnout — including Jackson's no-show — to declare the protest a flop.

"It says to me Jesse Jackson knew this was going to happen and pulled out," said Todd Manzi of Tampa, Fla., Burk's self-appointed nemesis. "This issue was never an issue. It's all about Martha Burk's self-promotion."

Reaction at the course to Burk's presence was ho-hum.

"None of these people really care about what's going on outside the gates of this club," six-time Masters champion and Augusta National member Jack Nicklaus said. "Come on, it's a golf tournament."