AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta National Golf Club has accepted its first black member in an apparent attempt to avoid having the Masters branded as discriminatory following a racial stir at the host club of the PGA Championship.
He is Ron Townsend, the former president and general manager of television station WUSA-TV in Washington. The club confirmed the identity soon after the station identified the newest member of the exclusive club.
Townsend now heads the Gannett media group's television division. He oversees operations at 10 Gannett stations around the country, including WUSA and WXIA in Atlanta.
The Augusta Chronicle Tuesday quoted an unidentified source, saying the membership offer was made Friday.
Black groups threatened to demonstrate outside all-white Shoal Creek Country Club during the PGA Championship, held at the club last month in Birmingham, Ala.
After corporations threatened to pull some $2 million worth of television advertising from telecasts of the tournament, Shoal Creek agreed to accept its first black, an honoray member who has not played golf in years.
The controversy surrounding Shoal Creek prompted the PGA Tour, PGA of America and the United States Golf Association to adopt guidelines prohibiting discriminatory membership policies against minorities and women at clubs where tournaments are held. The new policy goes into effect in 1991.
Even though the Masters is run independent of the PGA, Augusta National President Hord Hardin, in the midst of the Shoal Creek conflict, said the club had been searching for a black member for the past year.
The first black to compete in the Masters was Lee Elder in 1975. Until 1982, the first year competitors were allowed to bring their own caddies, all of the tournament caddies were black.
Since the membership edict was handed down by the three main administrative bodies of golf, at least one private club, Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis, has refused to change its membership policies. The club, as a result, will not hold the 1991 Southwestern Bell Classic.