Leonard Shapiro, Sports Columnist

Hypocrisy in the USGA

By Leonard Shapiro
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, June 19, 2007; 2:21 PM

I'm a sucker for some of the U.S. Golf Association public service announcements you always see aired on NBC or ESPN whenever the two networks carry a USGA event.

Last week at the U.S. Open, once again we got to see that adorable little boy playing golf all by his lonesome, carrying his own canvas bag and making his hole in one late in the day seemingly with no one around, save for the friendly greens keeper, the only witness to the momentous event. In the end the kid springs for a can of soda for both of them in the fading light of day.

They repeated that rainy day at the golf course spot as well, featuring the eternal optimist golfer sitting out what looks to be the storm of the century in a ramshackle course shelter, hoping that it might let up just enough to let him finish his round. And once again they showed the "I Swing Like a Girl" PSA that ends with the message, underneath a USGA logo, "Proud to Support Women's Golf."

Oh really?

That last one always gives me great pause, mostly because I know who runs the USGA these days, and they think nothing of being members of restrictive golf clubs that do not allow women to join.

The current president of the USGA is Walter Driver, a lawyer who lives in Atlanta and is a member of Augusta National and Pine Valley in New Jersey, neither of which have any women members. And for the perfect trifecta of discriminatory policies, he also pays dues at Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta, which has no black members the last time I checked.

Driver's predecessor, Fred Ridley, a former U.S. Amateur champion and Florida attorney, also was a member of Augusta National. Several other previous and current high ranking officers and members of the executive committee also have belonged to restrictive clubs.

Look, it's a free country. You want to join a private club, you certainly have that right. But please don't take a position of great authority and influence in what is supposed to be a very public organization and insist it's none of our business where you pay your dues.

David Fay, the executive director of the USGA, actually resigned his membership at Pine Valley several years ago because of its restrictions on women members, a very appropriate and significant step made by a very honorable guy. But Fay, sadly, has no control over the organization's officers and committee members, and they run the place as if it is their own personal fiefdom.

Still, the last time I looked, the USGA's main missions include growing the sport around the country and trying to make the game look like the diverse face of America, rather than a portrait of big money corporate USA.

Whenever you broach the subject to some of these USGA muckety-mucks, as I did to Driver a few years ago, they keep insisting that their private club memberships are their own business and no one else's business and they have no bearing on how they conduct their duties with the USGA. They also insist they serve as volunteers in the organization, even spending money out of their own pockets, so their private lives should not be subject to any scrutiny, particularly when it comes to their club affiliations.

I found it ironic that Driver once headed Atlanta's largest and most prestigious law firm, King and Spaulding, which boasted on its web site of its efforts to diversify the firm, with photographs of several African American associates prominently displayed to prove it. And yet, here was Walter Driver belonging to a club in the same city, Peachtree, that wouldn't even allow those associates to join and play on the same golf course with him.


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