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Female reporter: Being barred from Augusta locker room 'inexcusable'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Female reporter denied access at Masters
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A security guard didn't let Tara Sullivan into the Masters locker room for an interview
  • Sullivan says it's "inexcusable" that the guard didn't know the club's policies
  • A spokesman for the elite club apologized, saying, "It should not have happened"
  • Only men can be Augusta National members, but female reporters are allowed access
RELATED TOPICS
  • Golf
  • Augusta
  • Augusta (Georgia)

(CNN) -- A female sports reporter blasted the all-male Augusta National Golf Club on Monday, a day after a security guard wouldn't let her in to interview one of the stars of the recent Masters tournament.

Tara Sullivan, a reporter with The Bergen (New Jersey) Record, tried to join other reporters Sunday evening in the club's locker room to interview Rory McElroy, a 21-year-old from Northern Ireland who gave up a big lead at the close of the four-day competition. But a security guard said she couldn't come in because she was a woman.

Read more about the Masters winner on Golf.com.

"This is not an issue of sensitivity. This is just an issue of doing my job," Sullivan said Monday. "I'm a credentialed reporter. I should have been allowed in."

On Monday, an official with the Augusta, Georgia, golf club explained that the guard had acted in error -- saying that, even though there are no female members in the club, female reporters have been and should be given the same access as men to do their jobs.

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"It should not have happened," said Steve Ethun, Augusta National's communications director, noting that the guard was not aware of the club's policies. "We will work as hard as we can to make sure it does not happen again."

The security guard, who was also female, "was very apologetic" in denying her access to the locker room in the clubhouse, according to Sullivan.

Sullivan responded by citing federal law that mandates equal access for reporters to get into such locker rooms, whatever their gender.

"(The guard) said it's sort of this open bathroom area," the reporter said. "I said, 'Yeah, like every professional locker room I go into.' "

Male reporters, including Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, who did get into the locker room, afterward gave Sullivan transcripts of the interview with McElroy. The Masters, one of professional golf's four "major" tournaments, was won by Charl Schwartzel.

Sullivan said she was mostly focused on finishing her newspaper column when she sought to enter the locker room. She became the story only after she wrote on her Twitter feed: "Bad enough no women members at Augusta. But not allowing me to join writers in locker room interview is just wrong."

Years ago, it was that former fact -- that the elite golf club allows only men as members -- that came under the spotlight.

In 2002, women's rights activist Martha Burk began a movement aimed at forcing the prestigious club, which includes many titans of finance and industry as members, to open its ranks to women.

But the club's then-chairman, Hootie Johnson, resisted these efforts, including saying in a statement that no policy changes would come "at the point of a bayonet."

As to her situation, Sullivan said she accepts the apology from Augusta National officials. Still, the reporter said that the club -- and not necessarily the security guard herself -- deserves blame for what transpired.

"It's (the club's) responsibility that the tournament security week personnel ... are informed of what the policies are," said Sullivan, who vowed to be back at Augusta National to cover her fifth Masters next spring. "It was just such a complete lack of awareness, which is inexcusable on the part of the people who run the tournament."

CNN's David Wilke contributed to this report.