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Woman Golfer Tees Off at Club's Policies

February 17, 1989|ERIC LICHTBLAU | Times Staff Writer

A Yorba Linda woman, disgruntled over her lack of golfing time, sued her country club Thursday in an attack on allegedly sexist policies that force single women golfers to wait until men and couples have teed off.

Avid golfer Jan Bradshaw, 41, said she feels cheated out of her $14,000 membership fee at the Yorba Linda Country Club. The exclusive club's policies, she said, give men more and better hours on the course.

"The situation at Yorba Linda golf club creates a gross inequality against women," said Bradshaw, who golfs four or five times a week with a 21 handicap.

She filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the club and its owner, American Golf Corp. of Santa Monica, seeking to force new policies at the club and to gain financial compensation.

Representing her in the suit is Gloria Allred, the nationally known Los Angeles attorney who has taken on institutions from schools and jails to the Boy Scouts and stripper clubs in her battles against sex discrimination.

But Yorba Linda Country Club leaders say that Allred is off the mark this time.

"We don't run a discriminatory club," said Ed Greer of Yorba Linda, president of the Men's Assn. Board of Directors. Answering Bradshaw's charge that men get more time on the course, Greer said: "We have quite a few more men golfers than ladies, so that just stands to reason."

Gina Walthall of Villa Park, president of the women's board of directors, agreed with Greer. "I think what (Bradshaw) is doing is wrong. I think Yorba Linda treats the women as fairly as the men, and I think 97% of the women would support that position."

"All (Bradshaw) is going to do is ruin it for everyone else so we'll just have an open tee-time," Walthall said. "And then you might as well belong to a public course."

A membership fee at the Yorba Linda private course, with 550 golfers, is now about $28,000. Walthall said that if Bradshaw does not want to wait until the single women's time for golfing on Sundays, she could find a man to golf with during the earlier couples' session.

An attorney for American Golf Corp. conceded that the club's policies in alloting time for men and women are unique among the 110 clubs that American Golf runs nationwide.

"We wouldn't have set up the policies the same way," said attorney Loretta Singer, but she added that the corporation's efforts to change the policy have been stymied by the local board of directors' veto power.

Bradshaw, a member of the club for about a year, also charged that although the club has separate male and female associations, the men's governing body has the final say over any policy decisions. Both Greer and Walthall acknowledged that that was true.

Walthall said: "I don't see a problem with that. They listen to what we have to say."

But Bradshaw said the governing structure is symptomatic of a male-dominated club in which women play a subservient and sometimes demeaning role.

Many women at the club feel the same way she does, Bradshaw maintained. "But they're afraid to stand up and say anything. They're afraid of retaliation--their husbands have told them directly not to make waves."

Bradshaw said she appealed to the governing board last fall for changes in golfing policies but without success.

"This lawsuit was her last recourse," Allred said. But in broader terms, the attorney contended, "this is a pioneering case, on the cutting edge of change for women in seeking to be first-class citizens on the golf course as well as in every other area of life."

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