Exclusion and Bias Hinder True Competition
Arin N. Reeves
In 1948, Claude Harmon won the PGA’s Masters Tournament, a major championship in professional golf. He was lauded as one of the best golfers in America. In 1948, Ted Rhodes, a black golfer who dominated the largely ignored UGA circuit, received death threats for suing the PGA for its “Caucasian only clause” that limited participation in PGA tournaments to white golfers only.
In 1948, was Claude Harmon one of the best golfers in America or was he one of the best white golfers in America? While the former indicates an achievement of individual merit, the latter reveals a meritocracy interrupted by inequality.
The PGA responded to Rhodes’ lawsuit by making the Masters Tournament a purely invitational tournament. Rhodes was no longer banned because he was black. He was also not invited to play. Is winning the Masters a meritocratic standard for golf greatness when many great golfers were not allowed to play for much of its history?