Failed club bid golfer writes to members

A WOMAN golfer who failed to become a member of a Suffolk golf club has written to every club member outlining her case for membership.Sheila Williams is appealing members of Woodbridge Golf Club to support her at a Special General Meeting due to be heard at the club on March 26.

A WOMAN golfer who failed to become a member of a Suffolk golf club has written to every club member outlining her case for membership.

Sheila Williams is appealing members of Woodbridge Golf Club to support her at a Special General Meeting due to be heard at the club on March 26.

The club and Mrs Williams, of Woodbridge Road, Debach, have spent nearly £100,000 over a racial discrimination dispute and the costs could rise if the row over her membership goes to court.

Club members could be asked to pay £95 to a fund to fight the legal battle.


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Mrs Williams is angry that she was invited to apply for membership and then turned down.

Mrs Williams comes from an Indian family. She was brought up in Uganda and has lived in Suffolk for more than 25 years.

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She is a founder member of Fynn Valley Golf Club where she has played for 12 years. She wants to join Woodbridge Golf Club, established in 1893, which she describes as an excellent club and located very conveniently to her home.

She has a son at Ipswich School and one at university studying law and her husband John owns a Felixstowe-based transport company employing nearly 400 people throughout the country. One of Mrs Williams's two sponsors is Colin Carter who is in the haulage trade.

Mrs Williams, who has a handicap of 22, said friends told her Woodbridge Golf Club's ladies section was under-subscribed and she would be a suitable candidate as she was a competent golfer who played the sport competitively.

Mrs Williams, declined to comment about the dispute and has sent a letter with the approval of club officers to the club members.

In the letter seen by the EADT she wrote: "To my shock and deep disappointment, my application was eventually turned down, with no reasons given. Based on the information I have since received from the club, I now know that I am the only lady to have been rejected in the last five years, out of over 30 applicants. I am also the only lady applicant during this period who is not white.

"The reasons eventually given by the club to my lawyers are based on objections for either nebulous or, in my view, unfair and unfounded, reasons.

"It is the combination of these facts that led me to believe that the real reasons behind my rejection may be to do with my race, as one of the very few Asians living in this part of Suffolk.

Mrs Williams said she had taken action against the club "with great reluctance" but it was the only way to establish the truth and to obtain fairness.

"It is not a financial matter in any way for me and I have advised the club that if it is even now prepared to admit me to membership, I would be prepared to pay my own legal costs. This is not a sign of weakness or a manipulatory tactic, but an extraordinary gesture on behalf of my husband and myself to mitigate the cost of this sorry situation on the wider membership," she said.

There are three options to be discussed by club members. The first is to admit Mrs Williams as a full playing member and that is her preferred option. The second option, favoured by the club, is to allow a neutral third party to determine her application in private. The third possibility is for the row to be settled in a court case.

Officers from other clubs have written in support of Mrs Williams and now golf clubs throughout the county are awaiting Woodbridge Golf Club's decision on whether Mrs Williams should be admitted.

The club is not commenting on the dispute.

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