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LPGA head joins Augusta's critics

LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw urged Augusta National to admit a female member, saying its obligation to golf outweighs its rights as a private club.

The LPGA Tour is not involved with the Masters. Votaw said he wanted to make his position clear because, "We represent not just women, but the game."

"Augusta's exclusionary practices with respect to women speaks volumes," he said Wednesday at the season-ending ADT Championship. "The message it sends is that women cannot be part of that face of golf. And that's wrong."

He said the club's decision to treat race differently from gender is "perpetuating golf's exclusionary past and the perception that golf is elitist and exclusionary."

Club spokesman Glenn Greenspan said single-gender groups such as Augusta National and the LPGA are "legally and morally proper."

"It is clear that millions of Americans both support and belong to these organizations," Greenspan said.

The LPGA Tour excludes men from competition, and Votaw said that would continue because of the physical differences between men and women.

However, he has recommended that his board of directors accept men as members of the LPGA Teaching and Club Pro division, which has 1,200 members.

The debate over Augusta National's all-male membership escalated in July when club chairman Hootie Johnson denounced Martha Burk and the National Council of Women's Organizations for demanding a female member by the next Masters, in April.

The Masters already has dropped its three television sponsors to keep them out of the controversy. Johnson said two weeks ago there was no chance Augusta National would have a female member in the near future.

SPONSORSHIP DEAL: Funai Electric Co. will be the title sponsor of the PGA Tour event at Disney World, increasing the purse to $4-million next year.

Funai, a Japanese electronics maker, becomes the eighth company this year to join the tour as a title sponsor. The tournament will be called the Funai Classic at Walt Disney World Resort.