Racial Issue Clouds PGA Tourney : Golf: Shoal Creek Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., does not allow blacks as members. ‘We pick and choose who we want,’ official says.
The founder of Shoal Creek, site of the 1990 PGA Championship, said the country club cannot be pressured into accepting blacks as members.
Hall Thompson, 67, said club members have not allowed any black members because “that’s just not done in Birmingham.”
Thompson’s remarks Wednesday followed a city councilman’s criticism of the club’s policy and a call to cut municipal funding from the tournament Aug. 6-12.
“Bringing up this issue will just polarize the community . . . but it can’t pressure us,” Thompson said.
He said Shoal Creek’s members include Jews, women, Lebanese and Italians--but no blacks.
“The country club is our home, and we pick and choose who we want,” he said.
Officials with the PGA of America said if a club is found to discriminate, it could affect a decision whether to hold a PGA Championship there. But it won’t affect the 1990 PGA at Shoal Creek.
“This was not a point in 1984 (when the championship was held at Shoal Creek),” PGA of America President Pat Rielly said in a phone interview from his home in Pasadena. “This has become a point, or issue, in the last two years.”
Rielly said the PGA has found no discriminatory written policies at Shoal Creek, but the organization can do little if a club has unwritten rules.
Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington, the city’s first black mayor, was to meet today with council members to see if they could reach an accord on the issue of an advertisement in the PGA Championship’s program.
Arrington authorized the purchase of an ad in the PGA’s tournament program jointly with Jefferson County, the Metropolitan Development Board and the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. Each is contributing about $1,500.
But City Councilman William Bell said a decade-old council resolution advises that city funds should not be used for any clubs that refuse membership to blacks.
Earlier in the week, Arrington described the racially segregated country clubs in Birmingham as an “embarrassment.” He said he made a distinction between the exclusive country club, in a wooded area on the southeast fringe of Birmingham, and the Professional Golfers’ Assn.
“Maybe I drew a distinction that does not exist,” he said. “But I know the PGA is open and there is no racial exclusion.”
Blacks played the course in the 1984 tournament, Thompson said.