EDITORIAL: Pennsylvania golf course owners, 'Grandview Five' enjoy productive discussion
Over the decades, golf clubs have earned a deserved reputation for not being the most welcoming of places for women and minorities.
Last April, that reputation was sadly reinforced by a highly publicized racial incident at York County’s Grandview Golf Course.
By now, you likely know the details. Five avid African-American female golfers, who call themselves the Sisters of the Fairway, made national headlines after a video went viral of them being confronted at Grandview by former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister.
Chronister, whose family owns the course, called the police on the women after they allegedly refused to leave when accused of slow play.
In June, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission held a two-day hearing about the incident involving the group that became known as the “Grandview Five.”
After the hearing, the PHRC made recommendations to Grandview, but the recommendations, unfortunately, have not been made public.
Positive, productive meeting: Last Friday, Oct. 26, a gathering of a different kind was held. Fortunately, this meeting offered a refreshing and positive change.
Four of the “Grandview Five” spoke at the annual Pennsylvania Golf Course Owners Association meeting. Grandview is not a member of that organization.
It appeared to be a positive and productive discussion about the need for increased diversity and inclusion in the sport of golf.
Both sides talked to each other, not at each other. There appeared to be some actual listening going on.
Everyone involved should be congratulated for that.
Golf courses must become more inviting places: Many golf course owners seem to have come to the realization that their facilities, if they are to survive, must become more inviting places to folks of all races, genders, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.
That’s because the golf industry is hurting big time. Courses all over the nation are closing at an alarming rate — including several right here in York County in recent decades.
Golf courses simply can no longer economically afford to be exclusive and restrictive enclaves.
'Disgusted' and 'embarrassed': The panel's moderator, Robert Kleckner, of Linfield National Golf Club in Montgomery County, made it clear why the women were present.
"We read about too many of these issues," Kleckner said. "When I heard about this, not only was I disgusted, I was embarrassed. I wanted to take action right away. We cannot control what happened to them, but we can control our staffs, our kids and ourselves."
Kleckner is taking exactly the right approach. Rather than being defensive, he’s being open minded.
'Grandview Five' pleased with meeting: The members of the “Grandview Five,” meanwhile, seemed pleased with what they heard from the course owners.
One of the five, Sandra Harrison, said the positive side to the “hurtful and humiliating” event at Grandview is “that we’re able to have this conversation today.”
Despite the Grandview event, another member of the “Grandview Five,” Myneca Ojo, said the women still “love” the sport.
“One incident is not going to define how golf is considered,” Ojo said.
That’s a rather remarkable attitude, given the treatment the five women suffered at Grandview. It's also an encouraging sign for the course owners — the women still enjoy the game itself despite the rude treatment they endured.
Making recommendations: The Sisters of the Fairway made several recommendations to the owners, who seemed receptive to the advice.
Suggestions included diversity training to battle unconscious bias, holding events that force more interaction with minorities, mentoring children from varying socioeconomic backgrounds and clinics in urban areas.
Those kinds of actions could lead to systemic cultural changes that could help the sport grow.
Self-realization needed: In addition, longtime golfers need to have moments of self-realization, such as the one expressed by Gregg Acri, the director of marketing and sales for the state golf course owners' organization.
"I'm a 64-year-old guy who is a loyal golfer," Acri said. "We are the loyalists and the golfers that play the most. But we are also the same people that feel we're most entitled."
Statements such as that are a positive indication that some folks have actually learned something from the Grandview incident.
It’s also a genuine sign that some real progress is possible.