Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, said she was surprised only by the timing of Augusta National Golf Club chairman Hootie Johnson's message that the club would not alter its membership policy to admit a female member.
"Somebody, not Martha Burk, has apparently been applying some heavy pressure on him, for him to speak out when he hasn't for the last nine months," said Burk, who has been spearheading the campaign to persuade the exclusive club to admit a woman as a member.
"Is there some internal conflict at the club? My guess is there is. It's quite a slap in the face of Lloyd Ward and Kenneth Chenault, who said the policy needed to be changed."
Ward, chief executive officer of the United States Olympic Committee, and Chenault, chairman and chief executive of American Express, are members at Augusta National. Both released letters to the media in support of Burk and the NCWO.
"[Johnson] must be trying to quell a rebellion within his own ranks," Burk said. "Otherwise, what's new here? Why [speak out] now?
"If he's saying, 'We will prevail,' I think he's got the wrong 'we' there.
"I find it very sad that anybody of his alleged stature ... could take a stand that says sex discrimination does not rise to the level of race discrimination.
"It's very sad that Mr. Johnson is willing to subject the club to more months of conflict and turmoil."