Play in golf fundraisers around Garden City, and you'll see participants of all ages, races and genders swinging away and contributing to the cause.

Not so for this year's Southwest Kansas Pro-Am, which chose to ban women from its featured event Friday and today at Buffalo Dunes and The Golf Club at Southwind.

It was just the latest clumsy move in an ongoing effort to keep women away. Before, Pro-Am organizers tried to discourage women from playing in the top event with such nonsensical rules as making them hit from the men's tees, and even forcing one yours truly to qualify. For a fundraiser!

No men have been subjected to such shabby treatment.

And this year, Pro-Am organizers managed to make a bad situation worse.

In defending the new ban on women playing in the main Pro-Am, organizers of the event that benefits St. Catherine Hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit argued women have their own tournament.

The one-day ladies tourney is a nice option for women, including those who might feel uncomfortable playing in the bigger Pro-Am. (And is it any wonder they would?)

But men also have a one-day tournament as an option for those not able to play in the two-day Pro-Am, or who might be interested in playing additional days.

This year, men could sign up for the smaller tournament and main event, which features better prizes, amenities and networking opportunities.

Women could not. Why?

No one has offered a good reason. Probably because there isn't one.

I have played in the women's tournament and the bigger, two-day Pro-Am, and enjoyed both. Due to a schedule conflict, the main event was my only option this year.

And I would have had that choice if I was a man.

Instead, I was rejected, knowing full well the Pro-Am committee would never exclude Hispanics or men older than 70, for example. Gender discrimination didn't hit home with the mostly male committee.

Yet city officials, rightly worried about a claim of discrimination at taxpayer-funded Buffalo Dunes, had to seek a legal opinion.

Of course, perhaps the Pro-Am committee was concerned. What else would explain the reluctance to share this year's restrictions with potential sponsors?

No mention of it appeared in Pro-Am promotional material. Organizers proud of their decision should have been eager to share details in advance.

Instead, they signed up sponsors and players who knew nothing of the restrictions.

Now, sponsorships that help a worthy cause are in jeopardy. Sponsors, after all, know women patronize their businesses.

Current sponsors have sent letters to the Pro-Am committee, as well as the golfers turned away, stating they would reconsider supporting the event if women aren't allowed to play.

As for The Telegram, a longtime Pro-Am sponsor, the committee's acceptance of our two-player sponsorship, followed by its rejection of one player, essentially was a denial of our support for the event.

A newspaper that always has given the Pro-Am extensive coverage also presents editorials decrying discrimination. So, we chose to contribute directly to the hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit, rather than lend more financial support to an event that spurned a certain class of people.

Like many women, I'm no stranger to the "old boy's club" in golf circles and beyond. Sexism and male chauvinism are alive and well, unfortunately.

But how sad that such prejudices materialized in a very public way, and in a diverse community working to be tolerant, inclusive and welcoming to all. This city cannot tolerate discrimination anywhere its golf courses included.

We know the Pro-Am has done much good for the hospital and community. But it stands to lose ground if ongoing efforts to single out women continue.

Those in charge should seize the opportunity to change course in that regard, and make the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am a better community event in the future.

E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at denas@gctelegram.com.