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Ties between Shinnecock Nation, golf club tested

The Shinnecock Nation of New York has enjoyed a long relationship with one of the country's most exclusive golf clubs but the ties have been tested in recent years as tribal members say they have been slighted by club officials.

The Shinnecock Hills Golf Club opened in 1891 on land that used to belong to the tribe. The second U.S. Open was held there in 1896, when some golfers objected when two reservation residents -- one a tribal member and the other an African-American -- entered the tournament. The head of the U.S. Golf Association defended the right of the two to play.

Since that early start, tribal members have worked in a number of positions at the club and the first full-time superintendent was a Shinnecock named Elmer Smith. But in 1999, the club forced out his son Peter and replaced him with a non-Indian superintendent, something that tribal members didn't take lightly.

Tribal officials were further angered when the club, which is hosting this year's U.S. Open, decided not to lease land from the tribe for parking. The decision cost the tribe at least $90,000. Tribal leaders say club's decision was political because of the tribe's push to open a casino.

The club, citing long-standing policy, also refused the tribe's request to hold an opening prayer at the tournament even after the USGA suggested it. The USGA has invited tribal youth to participate in a junior golf event next week.

Get the Story:
Behind the Ropes at Shinnecock, a Deep-Rooted Union Frays (The New York Times 6/11)

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