As a longtime U.S. immigration official, I have a keen interest
in the PGA of America's misguided "American-born" eligibility
requirement for U.S. Ryder Cup players. The rule--team members
must be either born in the U.S. or born abroad to American
parents--is discriminatory and inane.
The unfairness of the PGA's stance was brought to light by the
contrasting situations of Tour players Andrew Magee and Brian
Watts, neither of whom qualified for the Ryder Cup this year but
could in the future. Magee is a U.S. citizen who was born to
American parents in Paris. He is eligible for the Ryder Cup.
Watts, who was born in Canada and is a naturalized U.S. citizen,
is not eligible. Apparently in the eyes of the PGA, Magee is a
better American than Watts, but the U.S. Constitution makes no
such distinction: All persons born or naturalized in the U.S.
are citizens; only the president and vice-president have to be
born in the U.S.
In most other international competitions, including the
Olympics, tennis's Davis Cup and even the Walker Cup (the
amateur version of the Ryder Cup), citizenship, not place of
birth, is the main criterion used for representing one's
country. The PGA obviously believes it can draw its own
eligibility rules because the Ryder Cup is a private affair, but
if it sticks to that position, I suggest that the American pros
remove the Stars and Stripes from their golf bags to protest the
policy of excluding some U.S. citizens solely because of their
Curiously, the American-born requirement was drafted not by an
American, but by an Englishman, Samuel Ryder, who in 1927
devised the body of rules governing the Cup that bears his name.
It's time the PGA recognizes that our Constitution is an even
better rule book.
August 29, 1999
Neville W. Cramer, a 14 handicapper, lives in McLean, Va.