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A Louisiana club bars a black high school golfer
Last Thursday, just before their match at Caldwell Parish Country Club in Columbia, La., was supposed to start, the eight members of the St. Frederick Catholic High golf team were hitting balls at the club's driving range. James Murphy, the athletic director at St. Frederick, was writing out scorecards when Bill McGee, manager of the club, approached him and told him that one of the St. Frederick players, Dondré Green, would not be allowed to play because he is black. "It's a club rule," McGee said. "This is a private club, and it has the discretion to bar anybody it wants."
Before informing Murphy of the club's policy, McGee says, he checked with club president Iley Evans to see if a black student could play. According to McGee, "He said, 'Definitely not.' "
Murphy then called the whole team together and told the players that "blacks can't play at this club." The team decided immediately to forfeit the match. The two teams that St. Frederick was scheduled to face, Jena High and Caldwell Parish, decided to have a match anyway.
Dondré, who has been playing golf since he was nine, says this was the first time he had faced any kind of discrimination. "I'm not going to let the club's stupidity ruin my future," says Dondré. (His future may include playing college basketball. He scored 26.5 points per game as a senior point guard for St. Frederick this season and is being recruited by LSU and Arkansas State.)
This was not an issue of club membership; a private club can refuse to admit anyone that it chooses. The incident involving Dondré was more like a club offering to host a PGA Tour event and then refusing to allow a black pro to tee off. Caldwell Parish was hosting a scholastic match—the students had been invited to compete there. According to assistant state attorney general Marvin Montgomery, "State law prohibits discrimination at a facility where the public is involved. It appears that if [the St. Frederick players were] invited, then it would be discrimination not to allow any member of the team to participate."
The Caldwell Parish school board did not know about the club's policy. School superintendent Jim Turner, who is a member of the club, said last Friday that he was going to ask club members to change the policy "or we [he and the school district's teams] will not play there anymore." On Friday night, the club's eight-member board voted to hold a special meeting to review its racial policy, but no date for that meeting has been set.
When a club turns away a player because he's black or, equally as disturbing, when two high schools capitulate to that policy, the temptation is to say that nothing has changed in the last 20 years. But that wouldn't be right. When Detran Lloyd, a black St. Frederick golfer, was told that he couldn't play at Morehouse Parish Country Club in Bastrop, La., 11 years ago, his teammates went ahead and played the match without him. Last week Dondré's outraged teammates refused to play without him.
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