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All White Club Forces Cancellation of Governor’s Golf Tournament

August 30, 1990

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ A golf tournament at a Southern governors’ meeting was canceled by its sponsors Thursday after the host country club acknowledged it has no black members and has made no effort to recruit minorities.

Gov. Ray Mabus, chairman of the Southern Governors’ Association, said the decision was best for the three-day convention, which opens Sept. 9 in Natchez. The Washington-based association referred questions to Mabus’ office.

Steve Fox, a spokesman for MCI Inc. in Atlanta, said the communications company has sponsored a golf tournament for the past three governors’ meetings. Other sponsors were Telecom USA, an MCI subsidiary, and Ross Laboratories.

The sponsors canceled the tournament because of the ″controversy resulting from the alleged membership practices at the golf club where the event was scheduled,″ Fox said.

The tournament was scheduled for the Bellwood Country Club in Natchez, on the Mississippi River about 140 miles southwest of Jackson.

Ross Patridge, Bellwood president, said Wednesday that the club does not have a policy discriminating against blacks, adding they had participated as guests in tournaments held at the course in the past.

″We have no restrictions with blacks being members, but no blacks have been put up for membership,″ Partridge said. ″We’re not knocking the doors down for blacks to join the club, but they’re not knocking down the door to join, either.″

Spokesman Kevin Vandenbroek said the governor supports the decision by MCI.

″Initially, we went along with the sponsor’s decision to have the tournament at Bellwood based on information we received telling us that the course did not discriminate or deny membership,″ Vandenbroek said. ″When we found out differently with the latest developments, the premise we operated under changed and we agreed with the sponsors’ decision.″

Earlier this month, several sponsors withdrew from a Professional Golf Association tournament at a country club near Birmingham, Ala., because it had no black members. A compromise was reached when the club accepted a black businessman as an honorary member.

The controversy prompted the PGA to make a policy that none of its sanctioned tournaments would be held at golf clubs that discriminated.

At least eight of the governors planning to attend the meeting said they had not planned to participate in the tournament for one reason or another. That group included Gov. Doug Wilder of Virginia, the nation’s first elected black governor.

Before the cancellation was announced, Wilder spokeswoman Laura Dillard said that although Wilder was a ″big golfer,″ he planned to arrive in Natchez the day after the tournament.

Of the tourney’s location, Dillard said: ″I think the governor would give Gov. Mabus the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t know about this.″

The Southern governors’ group also includes governors from Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

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