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Scott Ostler

There's a Price Paid for 'Guilt Premium' Offered by South Africa

December 07, 1987|Scott Ostler

Golf has never been a great social leveler, of course. In 1943, the PGA, pushed by a delegation from Michigan, passed an amendment making PGA events white-only. The amendment was removed in 1950 after two black golfers sued and settled out of court.

The Masters, the world's showcase of golf, didn't exactly leap into integration, unless you count the black caddies and clubhouse attendants.

Again, you can't blame current stars such as Wadkins and Strange for ancient history. And maybe they truly believe in the old line of reasoning.

"In the early '70s, it appeared South Africa wanted to use sports as an ice breaker," Ashe says. "A lot of people thought that might presage loosening of apartheid laws in other areas. That never happened."

And the old "I'm-not-political" rationale no longer washes.

If you go to South Africa, you have leaped off the fence. You are scoring points for one side or the other, and guess which side?

This is easy for me to say, of course. I-I-I-I ain't gonna type Sun City. I won't cover sports events there. But then nobody is offering me a million bucks to drop in for a weekend and write a couple breezy stories on Ian Woosnam's backswing.

Still, do guys such as Wadkins and Strange need the money? They were the two leading money winners on the PGA tour this year.

Others, on principal, have pledged not go to. Craig Stadler, who once played in South Africa, has signed the pledge. John McEnroe, after listening to Ashe, turned down $1 million to show up in Sun City with his racket.

"McEnroe decided not to go, on principal," Ashe says. "To go would lend legitimacy to what they're doing down there. . . . With a couple exceptions, no one has resisted (the boycott) after they've had the situation explained to them. . . . I never say 'Don't go.' I say, 'Let me explain the situation, you make up your own mind.' If I can sit down for 10 minutes with anyone slightly receptive to rational thinking. . . ."

Most decide not to go. But the friendly sports promoters from Sun City always seem to find a enough non-politician jocks to put on a slam-bang sports event.

Too bad.

How many times have you heard someone gripe about the big money earned by athletes? "Geez, they're not curing cancer," the gripers gripe.

Now, when they have a chance to help cure a cancer, some golfers are too busy playing golf.

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