BIGOTRY WATCH : Racial Handicap

Each victory in the battle against bigotry deserves applause, regardless of the motive for the step forward.

Shoal Creek Country Club, a restrictive golf course where this weekend’s Professional Golfers’ Assn. championship is being played, has announced plans to admit its first African-American members. Several other whites-only country clubs that host prestigious tournaments are moving to do the same.

The move to integrate the clubs came only after advertisers and PGA sponsors began withdrawing support for this week’s tournament and at least two television networks announced curtailed broadcasts of this major golf contest. Religious and civil rights leaders also threatened to picket the championship and other upcoming golf events.

Augusta National, site of the Masters tournament, and Baltusrol Country Club, which has hosted the U.S. Open, may invite blacks to join. Augusta Chairman Hord Hardin admits that the Shoal Creek uproar has accelerated the pace of events.


“Certainly the climate has changed,” he explained. “When corporate America says it isn’t going to be involved in television coverage, well, that wasn’t the policy until two weeks ago.”

Hooray for the corporations: IBM, Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Toyota and Anheuser-Busch.

Sure it’s inelegant that it took lost advertising and bad publicity to prod a handful of golfers up to speed on civil rights. But no matter what prompted the clubs to discuss change, at least the march for racial equality is going in the right direction.