Tea Party favorite Rand Paul secured the Republican nomination to run for the Senate in Kentucky by campaigning as an outsider and an insurgent. But that image may have been blurred by Paul’s decision to hold his Tuesday night victory party at the exclusive Bowling Green County Club, where he is a member.
“I always loved the view,” Paul told CNN. “I thought it would be neat if the weather were nice just for the view. Some people do it in hotel rooms. I think hotels are a little generic and boring.”
When asked whether his choice “sent an unusual message,” Paul acknowledged, “I guess some people could argue that. But I think it is a beautiful place.” As CNN points out, his campaign did obtain use of the facilities for free, which should play well with Tea Party calls for fiscal discipline, and the party itself was open to all of his supporters.
The same question arose arose again, however, when Paul appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America. “Some people find it a bit ironic that your victory party last night was at a private country club,” Robin Roberts noted. “Doesn’t that send a mixed message there?”
Paul, however, refused to concede the point. “I think at one time, people used to think of golf and golf clubs and golf courses as being exclusive,” he explained. “I think in recent years now you see a lot of people playing golf. I think Tiger Woods has helped to broaden that, in the sense that he’s brought golf to a lot of the cities and to city youth, and so now I don’t think it’s nearly as exclusive as people once considered it to be.”
The choice of the scandal-plagued Woods as an example might seem like an odd one, though it could be concluded that Paul was merely attempting to make the point that golf is no longer solely a rich man’s game. In that case, however, the possibility that some inner city youths may be taking up the sport has little to do with the exclusivity of a club that charges a $2500 “initiation fee” for full membership, plus monthly charges of $270.
But the more serious issue highlighted by Rand’s mention of Tiger Woods is one of race. According to the club’s own website, “Bowling Green Country Club is one of Kentucky’s oldest and most respected private clubs. Our active and vibrant membership has helped establish a heritage and tradition that the club has maintained since its inception in 1913. Bowling Green Country Club is located in the heart of the state, affording our club a relaxed, warm environment that embraces the uniqueness of the local culture.”
It appears that the club’s devotion to maintaining its “history and tradition” included a dogged adherence to segregation as late as the 1960′s. According to a history of Western Kentucky University, “In 1967 the golf team, which had no practice course, was invited to use the facilities of the Bowling Green Country Club. Then it was discovered that the team might have a black member. The Country Club was not integrated, and the invitation came under question.” The university team wound up going elsewhere for its practices.
This video is from ABC’s Good Morning America, broadcast May 19, 2010.