Black Woman Golfer: It Was Like We Had Targets on Our Backs
YORK, Pa. (AP) — When she walks onto a golf course as one of the few black women on the links, Sandra Harrison fills with pride and hopes her play will dispel stereotypes and disarm her fellow players — who are often white and male.
What she felt playing at the Grandview Golf Club as a new member in her community could not have been more opposite, Harrison said. The 59-year-old retiree said she was traumatized, rattled and hurt after she said she and the group of black women she was playing with were run off the course before police were called when a white man claimed the women were playing too slowly.
"It was like we were playing with targets on our backs," Harrison said. "What other reason could there be other than we were guilty of being black while golfing?"
No charges were filed, but the confrontation Saturday touched a raw nerve after two other somewhat similar incidents. Two black men in Philadelphia were handcuffed and arrested on April 12 after a Starbucks employee called police because they hadn't bought anything in the store. And employees of an LA Fitness in New Jersey wrongly accused a black member and his guest of not paying to work out and called police, prompting an apology from the company.
Harrison and Sandra Thompson said they were at the second hole when representatives of the Grandview Golf Club told the group they were playing too slowly.
"We knew we snapped those balls and moved right ahead," Thompson said in an interview with The Associated Press.
According to Thompson, one of the other women said she was confronted by a man with a posturing, aggressive demeanor who said, "You need to move forward! I'm the owner!"
Not wanting to lose the day, the group attempted to power through the front nine, Harrison said, but the confrontations made them increasingly upset and unable to concentrate on the game.
After the ninth hole, three of the women dropped out and headed home.
"I said, 'I don't want to do this anymore,'" Harrison said. "I was traumatized."
Down to two players, Thompson figured she and her partner could continue without being bothered. Again, they were approached.
The message this time: "Get off our property." The women were informed the police had been called.
After they were questioned, police declined to proceed further. Thompson said she was offered a check refunding her membership, but refused.
On Sunday, club co-owner JJ Chronister told the York Daily Record she called the women personally to "sincerely apologize."
On Monday, she issued a second statement to the newspaper saying players who are slow typically leave the course when asked by club personnel.
"In this instance, the members refused to leave so we called police to ensure an amicable result," the statement reads. It says the women skipped holes and took an extended break.
"During the second conversation we asked members to leave as per our policy noted on the scorecard, voices escalated, and police were called to ensure an amicable resolution," it reads.
It's part of golf etiquette that slow-moving players let groups behind them play through if they are holding things up, and often golf courses have employees who monitor the pace of play, letting golfers know when they are taking too long.
The five are part of a larger group of local women known as Sisters in the Fairway. The group has been around for at least a decade, and all of its members are experienced players who have golfed all over the country and world. They're very familiar with golf etiquette.
"Our name implies that we want to live life in a fair way," Harrison said. We want to be sisters in the fairway, in golf and in life."
Normally, clubs don't allow groups larger than four. Sandra Thompson was the last member to arrive, and checked with a clerk to see if it was OK to join the four others, knowing a fifth member might be an issue. The clerk said it was fine, said Thompson, an attorney and president of the York branch of the NAACP.
Thompson posted a video on her Facebook page showing the interaction with club co-owner Jordan Chronister, his father, former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister, and several other white, male employees.
In it, Jordan Chronister tells the women he's been timing them and that they must leave the premises. The women respond that they took an appropriate break and that the men behind them were still on their beer break and not ready to tee off. The women are then told that the police have been called. And so they wait.
Northern York County Regional Police arrived, conducted interviews and left without charging anyone.
"We were called there for an issue, the issue did not warrant any charges," Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel told the York Daily Record.
JJ Chronister, who owns the club with her husband Jordan Chronister, told the newspaper Sunday that she called the women personally to apologize. She said she hopes to meet with them to discuss how the club can use what happened as a learning experience and do better in the future.