No sweat. Just kidding. My hometown was melting this week. Southern Hills CC hosted the hottest major golf tournament in history, and when the last towel had been wrung dry, Tiger Woods was marching on. He won his 13th major Sunday, surviving a game Ernie Els and a playing-out-of-my-shoes upstart named Woodie Austin to pull within five major tournaments of history.
Woods shot a steady one-under on Sunday, enough to survive a couple of challenges and win his FIRST major as a dad. When Daddy ultimately passes Nicklaus, Sam Alexis will no doubt be there to meet and hug him next to the 18th green. This time, wearing her own Sunday red, she had to be content to wait in the coolness of the PGA trailer, in mommy’s arms. Let’s make a prediction: It says here she’ll be about four years old when it happens.
As an aside, I watched the 89th PGA with mixed emotions. Southern Hills, like many country clubs, did not allow black members when I was growing up in Tulsa in the 1970s, and they were not shy about saying so. I attended a school nearby, where the parents of many of my classmates were members. But it was well known that not only did Southern Hills not accept black members but we were not even widely welcomed as a guest.
That has all changed, of course. Call it the Shoal Creek effect. In 1990, the president of the Alabama-based country club, which was hosting the PGA that year, said the club did not allow black members and never will. Oops. Under pressure from both the pubic and Madison Avenue, the PGA of America, PGA Tour and LPGA, to their credit, ordered that it would no longer hold tournaments at any club with discriminatory policies. Though a few clubs dropped their tournaments rather than change their precious membership rules, the edict unleashed a wave of opportunity, which allowed African Americans throughout the nation to pierce barriers at private clubs.
I was one of them.
Today, blacks who play golf have pretty much the same choices as other golfers when it comes to club membership – as long as they can write the check. I know: It’s not lunch counters, school or housing discrimination or redlining or discrimination in the workplace. It’s golf. Just one small, yet critical, segment of society where what was tolerated in the “good old days” (which were never never good for us) just won’t fly any more.
And this was as Tiger had even tacked a piece of paper to his wall in homage to Nicklaus, a piece of paper stating his goals – goals that once seemed beyond the reach of any man. Let alone a black man.