We were dismayed to read in last Saturday's paper that women will not be allowed to play in this year's Southwest Kansas Pro-Am. We'd heard this was being considered but assumed it was a misunderstanding. We just couldn't believe that in 2010, such discrimination would occur here. Garden City has earned a national reputation for embracing diversity and inclusion, so why would we choose now to take a huge step backward and segregate by gender? We don't understand the logic behind this decision. It wasn't clear in the article, nor does it seem that the committee provided Ms. Van Norden with a legitimate reason. Were other women turned away and if so, what reason were they given?

This isn't the first time in the history of the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am that women have been held to different standards than men. Years ago, a woman was required to play qualifying rounds and submit her scores for review and consideration, while men were automatically accepted, regardless of the handicap they submitted. That practice was discriminatory in itself. This year's practice of excluding women from any chance to participate in the main event is even more so. Ms. Van Norden thought we were past this nonsense. So did we.

We understand that Van Norden tried to register for the main tournament but was redirected to the separate tournament for women only which would take place three days prior to the main event. This seems like an attempt to mask the real issue behind this year's change in format, whatever that may be. We don't intend to criticize the Ladies Pro-Am. This separate tournament is also very worthwhile, but it isn't equal to those who want to participate in the main event. We believe that all the tournaments should be open to both genders, not just the mixed one on Sunday.

We are concerned that a tournament in which an entire segment of the population is excluded will be played on a golf course that is funded by taxpayers, as well as owned and operated by the city. For future purposes, we'd like to see the city develop standards which make it clear that discriminatory practices will not be allowed in events held on taxpayer-funded property. Would the city allow Buffalo Dunes to be used for fundraisers in which people were segregated based upon differences in race, creed or religion, for example? We doubt it.

It seems to us that somewhere along the way, the Pro-Am committee lost sight of the reason for the tournament ... to raise funds for St. Catherine Hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit. Why would anyone want such a worthwhile charitable event to be tainted with negative controversy or any hint of discrimination? We realize it's too late to alter this year's format. However, we certainly hope this will be the final year that women are excluded from full and equal participation in the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am. It's time to follow the lead of cities that are doing the right thing and put this issue to rest, once and for all.

PAUL and DEBBIE KARKIAINEN,

Garden City