BIRMINGHAM, AUG. 8 -- The PGA of America announced today that future host courses for the PGA Championship must have open membership policies and prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex or national origin. However, the new criteria will not take effect until 1995.
The next four PGA Championships are to be held at private clubs with no black members. Officials of the PGA of America, the organization of teaching and club pros that oversees the tournament, said that contracts already had been signed with those clubs and that it is "conversing" with them about exclusionary membership practices.
It was unclear what arrangement the PGA of America might reach with those clubs that currently do not meet the criteria. Officials at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., site of the 1991 PGA Championship, have said they are actively recruiting blacks for membership.
"We're reviewing the entire issue with those clubs," PGA Executive Director Jim Awtrey said. "It's under review and until we complete the review we really have no comment. They need the opportunity to respond to what we have announced today."
The PGA of America said that as of 1995, nondiscriminatory practices must be guaranteed by contract.
Discriminatory membership practices by private clubs became an issue when Shoal Creek founder Hall Thompson acknowledged in June that the club did not accept blacks.
"We think the PGA just happened to be here when this came up," Awtrey said. "It's a social issue, one that was hurting golf. It goes beyond the PGA. We think it needs to be addressed and is right. You all have to take a look at yourselves and do what's right."
A secondary issue is what effect the controversy will have on corporate sponsors over the long term. Five sponsors withdrew advertising from ABC's telecast of this tournament, including IBM, Toyota, Honda, Lincoln Mercury and Spalding. Nabisco canceled a corporate hospitality tent. Only Lincoln Mercury and Spalding have considered putting advertising back into the tournament, while the others said they had reallocated their dollars.
As a result, ABC said it could lose as much as $2 million on the telecast. The network paid $3.2 million in rights fees to the event.
"I thought they took action without waiting to see how it would be resolved," Awtrey said. "I think they should have come back."