As the golf world turns its focus to Augusta National and the Masters this week, it also finds itself caught in the political controversy that has erupted in the aftermath of Georgia’s new voting rights legislation.
Just days after Major League Baseball announced this summer’s All-Star Game will be moved from Atlanta as a result of the new legislation that is seen as restricting voter access, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley is expected to be asked about the club’s response during his annual pre-tournament news conference Wednesday.
On Saturday, the PGA Tour and the PGA of America issued statements saying they intend to play scheduled events in Georgia despite growing calls to boycott the state after the new legislation was enacted. The organizations did, however, say keeping tournaments in Georgia does not mean they are indifferent to what has happened in the state.
The Masters and Augusta National are major influences in the international golf community as well as in Georgia where the club is based.
The PGA Tour, which hosts the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and the RSM Classic at St. Simon’s Island, issued the following statement:
“At the heart of the PGA Tour’s charitable mission is a commitment to serving and supporting communities where we play, across the country and around the world. In Georgia, this commitment has resulted in more than $38 million generated for local charitable organizations since the Tour Championship – our season-ending event – moved to Atlanta in 1998. The Tour Championship’s commitment to East Lake has helped our partners transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy and thriving ones, which is a key to ending the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
“The charitable and economic benefits that have led to these substantial changes would not continue if we simply walked away from those in need. We intend to maintain our commitment to the East Lake Foundation, Grove Park Foundation, Purpose Built Schools Atlanta and First Tee of Metro Atlanta by staging the Tour Championship at the East Lake Golf Club in September. We love these partners, and we will work with them to continue to deliver much-needed support and influence positive change.
“Our intention to stage an event in a particular market should not be construed as indifference to the current national conversation around voting rights. The PGA Tour fully supports efforts to protect the right of all Americans to vote and to eliminate any barriers that may prevent citizens’ voices from being heard and counted. It is the foundation of our great country and a critical national priority to listen to the concerns about voter suppression – especially from communities of color that have been marginalized in the past – and work together to make voting easier for all citizens.”
The PGA of America, which is scheduled to host the KPMG Women’s PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club, also issued a statement which read:
“The KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is a partnership between three organizations committed to diversity, equity and inclusion: PGA of America, LPGA and KPMG. Like many entities, we are monitoring developments related to the new state legislation on voting access. We believe elections should be accessible, fair and secure, and support broad voter participation.”
Ron Green Jr.