MASTERS GOLF MAY GO SPONSORLESS NEXT YEAR

Can Hold Out 'Indefinitely' Against Ad Boycott Attempts Says Chairman

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The commercial-free 2003 Masters golf tournament could continue that way in the future, Augusta National Golf Club chairman William "Hootie" Johnson said today.

In his annual "State of the Masters" speech, held on the eve of the famed event, Mr. Johnson again reiterated that the male-only club will not be forced into admitting a female member and will do so on its own timetable.

'Indefinitely'
When asked if the Masters will have

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sponsorship next year, Mr. Johnson would only say that "there's a good chance we will." But when pressed and asked how long the club can continue to hold the tournament without its three corporate partners, Mr. Johnson replied: "Indefinitely."

Mr. Johnson released sponsors Coca-Cola Co., Citigroup and IBM Corp. from their respective commitments to the Masters late last year in the wake of a very public spat with activist Martha Burk, head of the National Coalition of Women's Organizations (NCWO). Ms. Burk has been waging a campaign to have a female member admitted to the club, located in Augusta, Ga., prior to this year's Masters event.

$2 million costs
Mr. Johnson said he did not want the sponsors to be targeted for boycotts over the membership issue, making for the first commercial-free coverage of the tournament. The event will be broadcast Thursday and Friday on cable's USA Network, and Saturday and Sunday on Viacom's CBS, the 48th consecutive year CBS has televised the Masters. Because of the elimination of sponsors, CBS and host Augusta National agreed to split the $2 million production cost of this year's tournament.

The Masters has traditionally been devoid of much advertising. Augusta National permitted only three event sponsors and just four minutes of advertising per hour during the four days of televised coverage. The sponsors were not allowed signage on the course and CBS has never been allowed to promote its own shows during the coverage.

$15 million from sponsors
But Coca-Cola, Citigroup and IBM each paid $5 million to $7 million for its respective sponsorship to be associated with the prestigious event. It is unknown how the Augusta National Golf Club plans to recoup that money if continues to bar sponsorship of the event on a yearly basis.

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