I’ve been wondering what the members of the Cypress Point Golf Club think of the news that Augusta National has opened its doors to women.
Twenty-two years ago Cypress Point, in Pebble Beach, California, was on the opposite side of a story about discrimination in golf. To quote a news article by Jaime Diaz of the Associated Press in 1990:
``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 A.T.& T. Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, an event it has been a host to for more than 40 years. ‘’
I was the golf writer and golf columnist for the Monterey County Herald at that time. I wrote that Cypress Point had long held a position of some respect on California’s Monterey Peninsula because, as one of the tournament courses, it contributed to the charities that benefitted from the event, and those charities helped kids and adults of all races.
Having decided to not lower the racial barrier and to remove itself from the tournament, I continued, Cypress Point was about to lose that standing in the community – and it has, frankly, to this day.
There is some irony that Augusta National, site of The Masters golf tournament in Georgia each Spring, has made international news by admitting Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, because Cypress Point has long admitted women.
But that wasn’t the issue in 1990. Race was, and had been for a long time in golf. It was a miracle when a black golfer such as Charlie Sifford, while talented, made any headway.
Sifford, who did so much to break the color barrier, probably would have had three times the career if the many real and psychological barriers in his path, both on the course and in the locker room, had been lifted. Tiger Woods has admitted a debt to Sifford, and other golfers of color who came before him.
I often wished that some of the game’s prominent stars would have spoken up during those times. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are good people, but never quite had the courage or conviction to stand up for fair play in their sport, and discrimination is about as ``unfair’’ as play can be. A strong statement by either would have meant so much.
Lee Trevino probably did as much as anyone for the game in that regard, making his statement on the course. He showed he could play with anyone, winning major tournaments and beating Palmer and Nicklaus along the way. Still, Trevino was patronized by announcers and writers with the title ``The Merry Mex’.’’
I interviewed Trevino once at Pebble Beach and asked him if he appreciated being called that. He promptly took me aside and opened his mouth and showed me his worn down molars; because of stress and tension he ground his teeth in his sleep. So, no, he did not appreciate being called ``The Merry Mex,’’ but, he implied, if it kept the bigots off his case, he would tolerate it.
Columnist Tim Kawakami wrote the other day that Rice reportedly joined Cypress Point earlier this year. Another irony, for Rice is a person of color. Rice teaches at the Stanford business school, and Stanford is one of several teams that will compete in an inaugural invitational college tournament at Cypress Point in October. There’s probably a connection. In any case, maybe the club is coming into the 21st Century.
It’s strange, actually, that gender discrimination ever existed in the game. There have been prominent women golfers through the decades, going back to Babe Zaharias, one of the greatest athletes of all time, Patty Berg and Kathy Whitworth through Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam.
All of them could have trounced most any CEO at Augusta National or Cypress Point. So could Sifford, probably, though he just turned 90.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...