Cypress Point rejects PGA guidelines

September 18, 1990|By Jaime Diaz | Jaime Diaz,New York Times

The famed Cypress Point Golf Club has become the third private club to refuse to change its membership policies to conform to the PGA Tour's new anti-discriminatory guidelines for clubs that play host to tour events.

As a result, Cypress Point, which admits women but does not have a black among its 250 members, decided last week it will no longer be one of the sites of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, an event it has been a host to for more than 40 years.

The tournament, scheduled to begin Jan. 31, is played over three courses, including Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill on California's Monterey Peninsula. The latter courses are public, so the Tour guidelines do not apply to them.

"We wanted to continue to hold the tournament," said Bill Borland, a member at Cypress Point and the chairman of the Monterey Peninsula Golf Foundation. "But the PGA Tour told us that Cypress Point did not fit into its rules and regulations. There really was no negotiation."

Tim Finchem, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the PGA Tour, said the Tour would have invited an open dialogue with the club, adding that the Tour never told Cypress Point it would have to expedite the membership of a black or be terminated as a tournament site.

"Certainly we would have insisted on certain things, but we never got to the point where anything was discussed," Finchem said. "In the case of Cypress Point, the club indicated that it was unwilling to discuss any action it might take. They weren't going to change what they were doing."

Although the tour's anti-discriminatory policy is a direct result of the events that took place at the PGA Championship at Shoal Creek last month, Finchem stressed that the Tour does not intend to tell clubs, "We want you to have X black members by X date."

At Shoal Creek, after civil rights groups threatened to picket the all-white club in response to comments by Hall Thompson, the club's founder, that indicated a discriminatory membership practice against blacks, corporations led by IBM pulled more than $2 million in advertising from the network telecast of the tournament.

A few days later, the club accepted an honorary black member, and began regular membership proceedings to accept another.

In the midst of the controversy, the PGA Tour drew up its new guidelines. They state that as of Jan. 1, 1991, no private club that wishes to be host to a PGA Tour event can have a membership policy or practice that discriminates against members of any racial minority or women.

According to PGA Tour officials, corporate sponsors in 1990 will spend more than $100 million on television advertising in 57 regular tour and Senior tour events.

"We are taking each private club we deal with on a case-by-case basis," Finchem said. "Each club is different in terms of makeup, practice and history. We don't think there is a standard or optimal solution for all situations. We are asking that a club demonstrate a policy that is not discriminatory."

Cypress Point joined all-male Butler National near Chicago, site of the Western Open for the last 17 years, and all-white Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis, which was scheduled to hold a Senior Tour event next year, as private clubs that will not be sites for PGA Tour events in 1991 because they refused to change their membership policies.

Last week, the Augusta National Golf Club, the annual site of the Masters, confirmed that it had accepted its first black member.

Finchem said he expected a few other private clubs that do not have women or minority group members to drop out as tournament sites for next year before late October, when the schedule is set for the PGA Tour, the Senior PGA Tour and the Ben Hogan Tour.

But he added that the large majority of such clubs are working with the Tour to demonstrate that their membership policies are not discriminatory on the basis of race, gender or religion.

"I would guess right now we might lose two or three clubs from each tour, but most of the clubs are moving very quickly in a positive direction," Finchem said. "There are some where we have some concern and need to pay close attention, but on balance, we are very pleased."

Borland said that Cypress Point's board of directors had acted on the assumption that the Tour would have demanded that the club expedite the acceptance of a black in a manner contrary to its lengthy membership system, which currently includes a seven-year waiting list.

According to the club's bylaws, a prospective member at xTC Cypress Point must be sponsored by two other members, and then receive letters of recommendation from 10 other members.

"You can't just make a person a member immediately; it wouldn't be fair to the people on the waiting list," Borland said. "It wouldn't matter if if was a black or white person. That's the way the club has been run for years, and that's the way it's going to be."

Borland said that a replacement for Cypress Point, whose rugged beauty along the coastline of the Monterey Peninsula in California has led to it being called "the Sistine Chapel of golf," won't be picked for a few weeks.

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