Christine Brennan The USA Today columnist who ignited the Augusta debate can't wait to grill Hootie again

April 07, 2003

SI: Your story last April decrying Augusta National's all-male
membership inspired Martha Burk to write to Hootie Johnson,
kicking off this controversy. So how does it feel to be Bob
Woodward in pearls?

CB: I certainly never sought an active role, but as an
opinionated journalist--a columnist--I'm thrilled that sex
discrimination in golf has finally become an issue. It's a very
good dialogue for the sport to be having.

SI: You've been writing about Augusta National since ...

CB: ...since 1999. I had become a cliche.

SI: Why did it take a woman to drive this issue?

CB: I am really reluctant to say a woman's perspective is
different in sports journalism. And I don't want to sound as if
I'm indicting the golf media, because I adore the guys on the
beat--in fact I've dated a couple of them. But could it be that
they didn't see this as a serious issue because a lot of them
have played at all-male clubs?

SI: In '99 Hootie refused to answer your questions about the
club's lack of female members during his annual Wednesday press
conference. Replay what happened afterward.

CB: The next day I was sitting in the press center, and Hootie
sought me out so we could be introduced properly. We mostly
exchanged pleasantries, but I did ask him, very casually, "So why
don't you have a woman member?" And he said, "We will in due time."

SI: Why haven't you written about that?

CB: I guess it might be of use in a future column, but that's
O.K., you can have it.

SI: Hootie's press conference this year has the makings of a
media circus. Are you licking your chops?

CB: I haven't thought about it. But put it this way: I have a few
questions left for Hootie, and I look forward to asking them.

SI: It may be a very scripted occasion, not unlike the
President's recent prime-time news conference. Any fear that
Hootie may snub you, just as Bush dissed longtime White House
reporter Helen Thomas?

CB: I'm definitely not afraid to ask a question for fear of being

SI: What if Hootie strolled in with the first woman member?

CB: I would love to write that column. I certainly wouldn't focus
on how long it has taken. I would congratulate him on his
courage. You know, it's not too late for Hootie. He could still
be seen as a hero.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON AGENT PROVOCATEUR Brennan has been writing about AugustaNational's woman troubles since 1999.

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