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updated: 8/22/2012 5:27 AM

Four local golf clubs shut out women

Four local golf clubs shut out women

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  • The Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook is for men only.

       The Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook is for men only.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • The Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook is a men's-only club.

       The Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook is a men's-only club.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

A decision made Monday by the historically men's-only Augusta National Golf Club to offer two women a membership will likely not influence four local men's-only golf clubs to change their ways, according to sources familiar with the Chicago-area golf community.

Those clubs include Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook and Black Sheep Golf Club in Sugar Grove, where spokesmen said they did not want to comment on Augusta's decision. Representatives from the other two local men's-only clubs -- Old Elm and Bob O'Link, both in Highland Park -- did not return phone calls.

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Barry Cronin, a local golf industry executive who owns Cronin Communications Inc., said Augusta's decision to admit former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore was good, especially because it is such a high-profile club.

But Cronin thinks various sociological, economic and demographic factors play into the reasons local men's-only clubs probably won't let women join anytime soon.

"In these men's clubs in (the) Chicago (area) ... women are not allowed on the property at all. They don't even let them get out of the car, as far as I know," he said, adding that it was not the same case at Augusta, where women were allowed if invited by a member. "I think there may be demand among females to join Augusta National, but I don't think there's demand among females to join these four clubs."

Cronin noted that membership at men's golf clubs is often by invite only and could be considered by some to be discriminatory not just because of which gender is allowed in, but because of the high cost to join.

Greg Nathan, senior vice president of the National Golf Foundation, said he has no statistics on how many men's-only golf clubs exist in the U.S., but that "it's not significant enough to track."

"It's a totally unique circumstance for Augusta National," Nathan said of it allowing women, adding that he does not necessarily anticipate the change will influence policies at other men's-only clubs. "The course is much more in the public eye than the majority of men's-only clubs."

Marlene Miller, an Illinois Women's Golf Association Hall of Fame member and coach for the Lake Forest High School girls golf team, said she applauded the Augusta decision.

"I don't know how I could be anything but pleased," she said, adding that she has coached girls for more than 30 years in the sport and helped establish a junior girls' state golf tournament.

While she thinks there is a possibility that one day the Chicago-area men's-only golf clubs will change their rules, Miller said she knows things like that are slow to change.

"It took a long, long time before they allowed girls to play in sports," she said. "You kind of peck away with it a little bit, trying to do what you can do."

But, she said, the clubs have a right to do what they want because they don't receive public funds.

"They're private. That's not a battle I'm going to fight for," she said of getting the clubs to admit women. "They (the women) can go to another place if they want to."

Miller said negative consequences can come from not offering women memberships, though, as seen in Butler National's loss of the Western Open in 1991 after the PGA Tour and U.S. Golf Association decided not to host tournaments at clubs with exclusionary membership policies.

"That's their decision," she said of Butler's men-only policy.

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