BIRMINGHAM, AUG. 11 -- The PGA of America, which oversees the PGA Championship, announced today that each of the clubs hosting the tournament from 1991 to 1994 have agreed to take steps to admit minority members.
The PGA Championship at Shoal Creek became the center of controversy in June when founder Hall Thompson acknowledged the private club discriminated against blacks. After civil rights leaders threatened to protest the tournament, Shoal Creek agreed to admit a local black businessman as an honorary member and consider another through its regular admission process. The controversy also caused the governing bodies of golf to reassess their site selections in the wake of revelations that some of the most prestigious tournaments are scheduled for clubs with no black members.
The PGA of America was particularly embarrassed when it was revealed that the next four PGA Championships are scheduled for private clubs that do not presently include black members. On Wednesday the PGA announced that beginning in 1995 any host club must demonstrate that it does not exclude members on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin, but that did not answer the question of what it intended to do about the upcoming events.
PGA of America Executive Director Jim Awtrey said today the organization has spoken to host clubs for 1991-94 and all have agreed to bow to the non-discriminatory policy.
The sites are Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Aronimink Golf Club in Newton Square, Pa., and Oak Tree in Edmond, Okla.
Rough Going I
Quite apart from the controversy of recent weeks, there is a very good reason for the PGA Championship not to return to Shoal Creek: the traffic. It was so bad today that players needed police escorts to make their tee times.
The PGA of America contends that it weighs quality of course and local resources, including access, in choosing its sites. But Shoal Creek must rank among the least accessible hosts of a major. Only two small county roads lead to the course, which is hidden behind a couple of ridges on the outskirts of town. Traffic was backed up for miles, with what is usually a 20-minute ride taking as long as two hours.
Local police escorted players in courtesy cars around the traffic jams. Tournament organizers issued bulletins and advisories to the public, asking them to travel either earlier or later.
Rough Going II
Shoal Creek's rock-like greens have drawn harsh criticisms from players, who have watched shots that normally would have been good ones instead bounce several feet in the air and hurtle into the rough.
It is unusual for bent-grass greens in the South to be so firm. The PGA of America chose not to water them, drying them into a crust, but that wasn't all. Apparently the course greenskeepers used 200-pound mowers instead of the usual 100-pounders, packing them down.
The result is what Tim Simpson described this way: "A 20-pound shot put wouldn't make a dent in them," he said.
Local Boy Does Good
The low club pro for the last two rounds has been Bob Boyd of Rockville, Md., who plays out of Woodmont. Boyd was one of just five club pros among the 40 who entered the tournament to make the cut, with his rounds of 74-74 -- 148. Today he shot 71, for a 3-over total of 219.