Golf club dispute goes to third party

AN alleged racial dispute between a golf club and a woman who was refused membership is to go before a third party, her solicitor said last night .Members of Woodbridge Golf Club held a special meeting last nightto discuss Sheila Williams's claims of racial discrimination.

By Jonathan Barnes

AN alleged racial dispute between a golf club and a woman who was refused membership is to go before a third party, her solicitor said last night .

Members of Woodbridge Golf Club held a special meeting last nightto discuss Sheila Williams's claims of racial discrimination.

The female golfer, who comes from an Indian family, is angry that she was invited to apply for membership and then turned down.


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The club and Mrs Williams, of Woodbridge Road, Debach, have spent nearly £100,000 over the dispute.

Following the meeting last night, Richard Hemmings, Mrs Williams's solicitor, said the matter would be going to arbitration.

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He said: "We are unsurprised by the outcome. As the management committee recommended arbitration rather than immediate admission, membership at this stage was never realistically on the cards.

"Nevertheless, Sheila has enjoyed tremendous support from the golfing community in Suffolk and particularly from a significant number of senior members within the club itself."

The third party who will judge the dispute and the timescale of further proceedings will now be discussed.

Mrs Williams, who was brought up in Uganda and has lived in Suffolk for more than 25 years, had written to every club member outlining her case for membership.

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.

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.

She wrote in her letter to members: "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.

No-one at the club was available for comment last night.

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