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Augusta foes claim victory on picketing

©Associated Press

January 23, 2003

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Opponents of Augusta National's all-male membership claimed victory after the defeat of a proposal that would have hindered protests at the Masters.

County commissioners split 5-5 Tuesday on a plan to require demonstrators to give at least 30 days notice of their plans to picket. The plan also would have required the sheriff to approve the application within 10 business days.

The five commissioners who opposed the ordinance are black. The five who supported it are white.

Augusta Richmond County Mayor Bob Young, who could have broken the tie, was in Washington for a national mayor's conference. He said he did not know how he would have voted.

That means the National Council of Women's Organizations and the Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition can wait until just before the tournament in April to get a permit to protest.

It is possible, however, that the county commission could reconsider the issue at a future meeting.

Existing law requires protesters to secure a permit from the Richmond County sheriff before picketing on public property. Sheriff Ronnie Strength has said he will not allow demonstrations on property around Augusta National because of safety concerns.

"I'm against Jesse Jackson coming to Augusta. I'm against Martha Burk, but they have a right to freedom of speech," said Commissioner Bobby Hankerson, who voted against amending the law.

PHOENIX OPEN: Raucous galleries and demanding fairways aside, Chris DiMarco likes this tournament.

He should. It's the victory he couldn't give away.

"It's pretty special walking around this place and you see your picture everywhere," DiMarco said of the event, which begins today. "Any time you defend, obviously you come back to a place that's got good memories."

DiMarco lost four strokes to par in three holes late in last year's final round. Trailing by one stroke, the former Florida Gator battled back to win by one despite a cinema-inspired incident at the par-3 16th hole.

He put the ball within 2 feet and was lining up a birdie putt when a fan shouted "Noonan" -- a taunt from the movie Caddyshack in which the character Danny Noonan has to make a pressure putt.

DiMarco sank the putt, asked marshals to eject the man and went on to claim his third title in three years and a $720,000 purse that helped push his 2002 earnings to a career-high $2,606,430.

The TPC of Scottsdale course favors straight drives, and DiMarco said he is driving the ball better than last year while also continuing to putt well.

The 132-man field lacks No. 2-ranked Ernie Els and No. 1 Tiger Woods, but includes Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen, David Toms, Sergio Garcia and Vijay Singh, who are ranked third through seventh.

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