Black people have long complained about getting pulled over by police for “driving while black,” or being eyed suspiciously by store security guards for “shopping while black.” Now a group of women says it got into trouble for golfing while black.
Officials at the Grandview Golf Club in York called police on the group, accusing them of playing too slowly and holding up others behind them.
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.
Sandra Thompson (right) speaks alongside Sandra Harrison, both golfers and members of a group of local women known as Sisters in the Fairway, during an interview with The Associated Press, Tuesday. (JACQUELINE LARMA/AP)
One of the black women golfers, Sandra Harrison, said they were at the second hole when representatives of the Grandview Golf Club told the group they were playing too slowly.
After the ninth hole, about an hour and 45 minutes later, they were told that they took too long a break and needed to leave.
Harrison said she and two other women left because they were so rattled by the treatment.
“It was like we were playing with targets on our backs,” she said. “What other reason could there be other than we were guilty of being black while golfing?”
The club called police on the two women who remained.
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, Harrison said.
Normally clubs don’t allow groups larger than four. Sandra Thompson told the York Daily Record she 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, said she hopes to meet with the group of black golfers to discuss how the club can use what happened as a learning experience and do better in the future.