Five African-American women were asked to leave a public golf course in York, Pa., on Saturday, when the course co-owner, his father and associates confronted the golfers suggesting they had fallen behind the expected pace of play and should leave.
The women, however, are claiming they were discriminated against and had been keeping up with a reasonable pace.
The five women -- Sandra Thompson, 50; Myneca Ojo, 56; sisters Sandra Harrison, 59, and Carolyn Dow, 56, and Karen Crosby, 58 -- are part of a decade-old area golf group called Sisters in the Fairway, and they travel around the area to play. They had been set for a 10:08 a.m. start time at Grandview Golf Club, and the women said they cleared with the pro shop it would be fine to play as a fivesome, so long as they kept pace. Following a frost delay of an hour, the women teed off at 11 a.m.
But two holes into their round, the women said, they were approached by a man named Steve Chronister, who later identified himself as a course owner despite his son, Jordan, actually co-owning the property with his wife, JJ, and said the ladies had already fallen behind pace of play.
"I was approached by Steve Chronister, and he said, 'I'm one of the owners and you need to keep up the pace of play," Crosby said to the York Daily Record. "To me, that was a gross misrepresentation of who he was."
It was also a gross misrepresentation of pace-of-play etiquette, which is practically impossible to enforce two holes into a round.
Simultaneous to Chronister's infringement, another course employee told Thompson the group's pace was fine.
Steve Chronister then came over and spoke with Thompson, head of the York County NAACP and a former candidate for judge in the county, about pace. He offered to refund the women their money if they left. Thompson and the women refused, saying they had paid and were keeping pace. Chronister left.
However, the women, seeking to keep up with the supposed pace, skipped the third hole. They then waited on the fourth tee for the group in front of them to play. They kept pace with that group the entire time.
Three of the women left after nine holes, frustrated and jarred by the incidents. The other two women, Thompson and Ojo, chose to take a break after nine holes, spending about 20 minutes they said to have a beer and perhaps create some spacing with the group in front of them. They went back out to the 10th tee for the back nine, and it's at this time they were approached by Steve and Jordan Chronister, and were asked to leave. The Chronisters told Thompson and Ojo the police were called, have 5 minutes to leave and could have their money refunded. The women refused, with Thompson and Ojo then taking out their mobile phones to record their interaction with the Chronisters and course employees.
Jordan Chronister told the women they had reached the ninth green at 12:46 p.m. (he also said they left the ninth green at 12:45 p.m., so it's unclear which he meant), meaning they played the front nine in under 2 hours despite the elder Chronister's unnecessary interruption and having to wait on the fourth hole after skipping the third. The course's pace-of-play policy, as printed on the scorecard, calls for an 18-hole time par of 4 hours, 15 minutes, meaning the women were on pace. While a 20-minute break at the turn is long, the women were likely regrouping after the harassment on the front nine and deciding what to do next -- whether to play on or leave. Also, the group behind the women had not even reached the 10th tee when the recorded confrontation began.
Jordan Chronister then said in one of the videos some 40 minutes had elapsed from when the women left the ninth green to that point in their conversation. Thompson and Ojo said the group behind them was just getting to the 10th hole, meaning they had also taken a break of substantial length as well. Chronister could not offer a sufficient answer to the women's question about why that group was not also asked to leave. His stated timeline doesn't really line up with how the events seemingly unfolded.
Steve Chronister can be heard in the video asking his son to back down, saying, "This is what she wants. This is what she does for a living," inferring Thompson was seeking a confrontation because she works for the NAACP. Thompson is the vice chair of the county Democratic party, and Chronister, a Republican, was the county commissioner for 12 years until 2015.
Ultimately, York police showed up, spoke with all involved and recognized nothing criminal took place and no action was needed. The women left.
JJ Chronister issued an apology to all five women, and she said she called them personally. She issued a statement on their Facebook page on Sunday, saying, "Yesterday at Grandview Golf Club, several of our members had an experience that does not reflect our organization’s values or our commitment to delivering a welcoming environment for everyone. We are disappointed that this situation occurred and regret that our members were made to feel uncomfortable in any way. We have reached out to the members who shared their concerns to meet in-person, to fully understand what happened so that we can ensure it never happens again. Our team is very sorry for any interaction that may have made any member feel uncomfortable. Please know that we are taking this issue very seriously and expect our own organization to meet the highest standards for service that allows for everyone to feel comfortable and welcome."
Thompson said she wants a longer-term solution, including better awareness of how the women were treated by the employees and ownership.