Pro-Augusta Rally Planned for Masters Tournament

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

( - Martha Burk and Jesse Jackson have both made it clear they intend to protest Augusta National Golf Club's men-only membership policy when the Masters tournament takes place in April, but now a counter-protest is gaining momentum.

Todd Manzi, a defender of the golf club who created the pro-Augusta Internet website, says he visited Augusta last week and found its residents were not pleased about protests planned by Burk's National Council of Women's Organizations and Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. So Manzi decided he would organize his own rally.

"I read in the newspaper that no one had filed an application for a permit to protest, so I thought, 'I'm going to go up there and I'll be the first one. I'm going to protest Martha Burk,' " he said.

While in Augusta, Manzi enlisted the support of local residents who want to help organize the rally. He hopes to find several more people in town for the Masters, which starts April 7 and runs all week. Manzi said his protest would run the final four days of the tournament.

The details of his rally must still be worked out with the sheriff's office, Manzi said. Augusta Mayor Bob Young said the sheriff clears all permits and determines an appropriate protest location.

Manzi said he would like to secure a spot along Washington Road, the main highway near the golf club. He also plans to sell some of his pro-Augusta gear, including T-shirts and golf balls with slogans poking fun at Burk.

Burk, who visited Augusta the weekend of Feb. 8-9, according to the Savannah Morning News, was traveling Friday and could not be reached for comment. Two other organizations planning protests - the Feminist Majority Foundation and Rainbow/PUSH Coalition - did not return calls seeking comment on Manzi's counter-protest

Meanwhile, Augusta's mayor said residents are preparing for the Masters as usual and taking this year's circumstances in stride.

"We certainly don't like our community to be besmirched," Young said. "We understand the issue does not involve the city of Augusta. It involves a private club here in town and an organization that's based hundreds of miles away. We're being dragged into this thing, and we certainly don't appreciate it."

Allison Greene, a manager at the Boll Weevil Cafe, said Burk crossed the line when she created the website Although it is meant to convey disapproval of the golf club's membership policy, Greene said it hurts the city's image as well.

"It's kind of giving the city of Augusta a bad name," Greene said. "That frustrates me. This is my home town, I love Augusta, and the whole town's getting a bad rap for it."

Greene, who relies on the tournament to provide an economic boost for her restaurant and catering business, said she plans to come to Manzi's aid in April and join his counter-protest. Kim Bragg, who works for a real estate company in Augusta, said she would also lend a hand.

"We've lived with the Masters and Augusta National all our lives," Bragg said. "They do a lot of good in the community. They bring a lot of income into this community, and the bottom line is that it's a private club. It's up to them who they have as members."

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