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Last Updated: Monday, 8 May 2006, 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK
New Masters boss rules out women
Billy Payne
Billy Payne takes over from Hootie Johnson on 21 May
The incoming chairman of Augusta National, the home of the Masters, has dismissed the possibility of women becoming members in the near future.

Augusta National has repeatedly resisted demands for female members under the chairmanship of Hootie Johnson, who steps down on 21 May.

"Membership matters are decided by club members and we have no timetable to discuss that issue," said Billy Payne.

Payne also said further lengthening of the Augusta National was unlikely.

The build-up to the 2003 Masters was overshadowed by a row between Johnson and Martha Burk, the head of the National Council for Women's Organisations.

Asked whether he would welcome a telephone call on the subject from Burk, Payne replied: "I'm very aware of her position and I don't see at this time that any other dialogue would be meaningful and helpful."

We remain hopeful that limitations will be placed on equipment that will diminish the gains in distance
Augusta chairman Billy Payne

Burk replied: "I thought it (having a new chairman) would be an opportunity for the club to move forward, and it does not sound like that's the case.

"He (Payne) has had several years to speak out as a member and clearly did not have the courage to do so. As the chair, I thought his backbone might be a little stiffer."

Meanwhile, Payne refused to rule out the possibility of a tournament golf ball for the Masters if he felt the governing bodies were not doing enough to limit gains in distance.

"While we would hope that a resolution would come as quickly as possible through the normal process, we would not take that option off the table," said Payne, a 58-year-old Georgia native.

On the course itself, Payne said: "I think we have it just about right now. We remain hopeful that some limitations will be placed on equipment that will diminish the gains in distance."

Johnson oversaw two major overhauls of the course, adding hundreds of yards in length and toughening holes as players hit the ball ever-increasing distances.

However, Payne said limited changes would be made for the 2007 Masters, with the tee boxes on the 11th and 15th holes lengthened by five to seven yards.

The fairway on the par-four 11th will be widened around the 280-yard mark to help medium-length hitters while grass under the newly-planted trees flanking the right of that hole will be replaced by pine straw.

Augusta to stay all-male
09 Apr 03 |  Masters 2003

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