Howard club's gender rules in question

Female golfers prohibited at times at Turf Valley

August 01, 1999|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Women may be American heroes in soccer, but Joseph B. Adamiak's wife, Myong, got different treatment when the couple recently tried to play golf together as guests at the Turf Valley Resort and Country Club in Ellicott City.

Waiting to tee off at their scheduled 9 a.m. Saturday start time, they were told a male member had complained and women are not allowed on the club's "A" course before noon on weekends. She was hurt; he was furious.

"I got hot. This is 1999," said Joseph Adamiak, an Air Force retiree who urged a boycott of the club in a letter to the editor published July 25 by The Sun. "I just thought it was archaic and chauvinistic."

While John Paisly, the club member who invited Myong and Joseph Adamiak, said he was unaware of any rule restricting women, club officials say it is long-standing and has the support of members, including women.

An attorney who has sued several country clubs for discrimination said the club appears to be violating the law.

But club officials insist they're not violating state law or a written agreement Turf Valley and 27 other clubs reached more than a decade ago with the Maryland attorney general. They receive a big property tax break for maintaining their land as open space and for agreeing not to "discriminate based on race, color, creed, sex or national origin in granting membership or guest privileges in or at the club, including, but not limited to, privileges with regard to the use of its golf courses."

At Turf Valley, female golfers agreed to accept exclusive use of one of the club's three courses on Wednesdays and Thursdays, club officials say, while the men get the more popular weekend mornings for their tournaments.

Turf Valley marketing director Regina Ford said she knows about the agreement with the state, but believes the agreement between men and women golfers for exclusive times on the "A" course doesn't violate it.

Besides, she said, the club has another golf rule -- not mentioned during the incident July 3 -- which prohibits all "local" (within 50 miles) guests on the "A" course on weekends from April 1 to Nov. 1. That rule apparently was ignored by whoever scheduled Paisly's party. The Adamiaks are from Odenton in Anne Arundel County.

Linda Hitt Thatcher, a Landover attorney who has sued several country clubs for discrimination, disagreed with Ford.

"That's absolutely illegal," she said about gender-based systems. "What this is really about is a power struggle" in which men want control of the courses.

Club officials and veteran members say the club isn't sexist and defend the arrangement as one that works. "It's more about camaraderie," said Linda Taylor, who has played at Turf Valley for nearly 20 years.

Donald J. Dunn, Howard County Golfers Association president said it is not unusual for courses to set aside times for special groups."There's nothing exclusionary about it," he said.

Myong Adamiak played that day at Turf Valley, but on another course. Although her feelings were hurt, she said, she didn't want to further embarrass Paisly.

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