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USGA says it’s close to an agreement with Shinnecocks over Open

A view of the clubhouse with the ninth

A view of the clubhouse with the ninth green in the foreground during the 2018 U.S. Open media preview on Oct. 4, 2017 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The U.S. Golf Association is close to an agreement with the Shinnecock Indian Nation on the tribe’s participation in the upcoming U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, a USGA spokesman said Wednesday.

The development follows weeks of rancor voiced by the tribe over what one leader called “a pittance” of offers from the USGA, but it will not preclude peaceful protests planned by tribal members each day of the event, which starts June 11.

Craig Annis, a USGA spokesman, said leaders from both sides have had “some really great conversations” in recent days about the tribe’s inclusion in the event, which he said would involve a combination of “direct access” to the championship golf tournament and “celebrating” the tribe in opening and closing ceremonies.

USGA will provide for Shinnecock tribe members under 18 years of age to participate in a junior-day clinic at the event and in tours of various parts of the Open, Annis said.

There also will be a joint promotion of the tribe’s cultural center, Annis said, noting, “We’re working to encourage fans in the area to visit the Shinnecock Cultural Center and Museum to learn about their history.”

USGA will work with the tribe to produce a video to be shown on USGA channels that will discuss the tribe’s history in the development of the Shinnecock Hills course, as well as one tribal member’s participation in the Open. Shinnecock member Oscar Bunn played in the competition in 1896.

USGA is also working with the tribe to facilitate use of land at the tribe’s powwow grounds for parking, Annis said. The tribe, he said, will offer parking on its own, and work with USGA on the size of shuttles to transfer visitors to the event.

Annis said the full settlement will be announced within a week.

Shinnecock tribal trustee Lance Gumbs, who had been critical of the USGA, said, “Nothing is final until we see the preliminary agreements in writing.”

But any settlement won’t end some tribal members’ plans to hold daily peaceful protests near the Open site. Nichol Dennis-Banks, a former tribal trustee who is organizing the protests, said they will be held each morning of the Open, from 6 to 7 a.m. at the corner of Montauk Highway and Tuckahoe Road.

The Shinnecock Hills Protectors Demonstration will “peacefully advocate to reclaim our rightful sacred lands of the Shinneock Hills,” Dennis-Banks said in a message. She acknowledged that the protest has “nothing to do with the USGA or the U.S. Open.”

The protests will feature a range of speakers, including tribal and non-Shinnecock members, and call for an end to “racism and injustices against minorities,” according to Dennis-Banks.

Annis said USGA has been working with Dennis-Banks to coordinate with local authorities in support of the protests. “We’ve been talking to her about ways to engage her and the group,” he said.

In a statement, Brett Pickett, president of the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, said the club has “profound respect for the Shinnecock Nation, and we try in all that we do to honor their history and heritage and their connection to this land.”

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