Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Cloud hangs over golf as Williams racism row continues

The racist storm Steve Williams sparked refuses to go away

Steve Williams is not a racist. In fact, the New Zealander rarely exercises any discrimination in displaying his boorishness, arrogance and ignorance.

Yet the obscene remark he made about Tiger Woods at the Professional Caddies Association’s annual awards in Shanghai the other night came straight from the lexicon of Alf Garnett.

And for such a blatantly racist act, Williams should be shunned.

Golf has a shameful past and, in some respects, a dubious present when it comes to racial and sexual discrimination.

The failure to banish or ‘rest’ Williams at least until the end of this year brings the sport into abominable disrepute.

The International Federation of PGA Tours, the sanctioning body for last weekend’s HSBC World Golf Championship, described the remarks by Williams as “entirely unacceptable” adding “we are aware that he has apologised fully and trust we will not hear such remarks again”.

They said they “consider the matter closed”.

Except it isn’t, no matter how deeply into the sand these finely-plumed ostriches try to bury their head.

With Williams and his present boss Adam Scott scheduled to walk the same fairways as Woods at this week’s Australian Open in Sydney and next week’s Presidents Cup matches in Melbourne, this issue’s going to keep burning for the next fortnight at least.

In reality, it was up to Scott to take appropriate action against his employee instead, the Australian accepted the grudging apology issued by Williams.

In his naivety, Scott even asked reporters on Sunday “what do you want, I got him to apologise”, immediately casting doubt on the sincerity of the caddie’s climb-down.

The Australian has done well with Williams on his bag. Indeed, it was the Kiwi’s outrageously over-the-top reaction to his new employer’s victory at the Bridgestone World Championship in August which eventually led him into hot water last Friday.

Presented with the tongue-in-cheek ‘Best Celebration Award’ at the caddies’ annual bash, Williams explained in his acceptance speech that he’d wanted to shove the trophy up “that black ar***ole”.

Many of us who report on the professional tours have first hand knowledge of outrageous behaviour by Williams.

Personally, I witnessed a young, black college student reduced to tears after a tirade of foulmouthed abuse by the New Zealander during the 2003 US Open at Olympia Fields.

Her part-time job that week was to stand at the door of the media centre and permit entry only to those with the correct credential. When she stopped Williams and pointed out he did not have the necessary ‘M’ stamped on his badge, it led to a furious dressing-down which, the girl alleged, began with: ‘Do you not know who I am?’

“Yes, he used bad language, the F-word and several others,” the young lady sobbed.

“I would probably recognise Tiger Woods if he came to the door but even if President Bush turned up without an 'M' on his badge, I wouldn't let him in. That's what I've been told to do.

“It takes a lot to make me cry,” the youngster added. “But he offended my spirit.”

Though her colour or race had no bearing on Williams’s behaviour that day, I find it difficult to imagine him being as aggressive had a six foot, two inch male barred his path.

Australian Open Tournament Director Tony Roosenburg insists there’s no chance of Scott and Woods being ‘drawn’ together on Thursday and Friday but that’s not the point.

Following his outrageous remark, the very presence of Williams at any tournament offends the spirit and integrity of golf.

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