In the days after white golf course owners called the police on five African American women they said were not playing fast enough, a Pennsylvania state senator has called for an investigation into the incident and the club is losing local business.
On April 21, the women were told by owners and employees of the Grandview Golf Course in York County, Pa., that they were taking too long. The club offered to refund their memberships and then called 911.
Video footage taken by one of the women shows the club’s co-owner, Jordan Chronister, saying he had been timing the women. He interrupts them in a mocking tone and tells the women to leave before the police arrived. The police have said that once officers arrived at the course, it was clear that law enforcement did not need to be involved.
“When you see these African American women dealing with this issue, for many people it brings back this very long, very troubled history of racism and sexism, and just the denial of people’s humanity,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery County). “It’s 2018.”
On Wednesday, Hughes sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission requesting an investigation into the incident at Grandview. In the letter, Hughes states that the “women believe they were asked to leave the course because of their race and gender.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), along with the state’s Human Relations Commission and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs, issued a statement Thursday condemning racial discrimination in public places, including the arrests of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks and the incident at Grandview.
“We urge business managers and owners to reflect upon the treatment of individuals who seek to patronize your businesses,” the statement read.
Hughes told The Washington Post that the incident at Grandview exposed many layers of racial tensions within golf. African Americans — from elite athletes to amateurs — have historically been blocked from advancing in the sport. And for decades, women have been barred from gaining membership to some of the country’s most exclusive clubs.
“Then you have the additional layer of it in 2018 and dealing with the resurgence, or emboldenment, of people just speaking out and doing things and acting in ways that are unlawful, but [that] reveal their hidden and true feelings,” Hughes said.
Grandview did not return multiple requests for comment this week.
On Monday, the club’s co-owner, JJ Chronister, whose husband, Jordan, was one of the people who confronted the women, told the York Daily Record that in the past, “players who have not followed the rules, specifically pace of play, have voluntarily left at our request as our scorecard states. In this instance, the members refused to leave so we called police to ensure an amicable result. … During the second conversation we asked members to leave as per our policy noted on the scorecard, voices escalated, and police were called to ensure an amicable resolution.”
“We’re not looking at surface or quick fixes, because surface or quick fixes doesn’t fix the mind-set of what led to this,” one of the women, Sandra Thompson, told the Daily Record.
Grandview has largely been silent apart from JJ Chronister’s apology to the Daily Record, but that has not stopped other companies from publicly distancing themselves from the club.
Casta Cigars, a boutique cigar shop located about five miles from the golf club, was quick to denounce Grandview’s confrontation with the five women. A few months ago, Casta Cigars sold a one-time order of about 40 cigars to Grandview. Casta Cigars is now saying it will “prohibit any future sales” to the club.
Jonathan Kindig, a partner of the cigar company, told The Post that golfers at Grandview liked Casta’s cigars, “so we sell them wholesale and then they retail them.”
“Then this happened and we’re like, wait a minute, we’re not about that!” Kindig said.
Another course — also called the Grand View Golf Club but located outside Pittsburgh — has worked to separate itself from its similarly named newsmaker.
A local TV station, KDKA, reported that the Pittsburgh course has been “bombarded with threatening phone calls” and online messages by people who have confused it for the York course.
For Hughes, speaking out and calling for an investigation is one part of paying credit to the five women who were brave enough to stay on the course and wait for the police. His jurisdiction doesn’t include York County, but Hughes said “If I see it, I’m gonna speak out on it.”
He thinks that’s the best way to stop this sort of behavior.
“Silence is their best comforter,” Hughes said. “Silence is like their fertilizer to grow.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed a quote by Sandra Thompson to JJ Chronister. Thompson was speaking about a proposed meeting with Chronister.