The e-mail was sent to a female member of the Phoenix Country Club — and it was pointed.

"Can you stop you[r] bullshit at PCC," the e-mail demanded. "Nobody likes you and your type needs to go . . . The last thing we need is more lezzies like you down there . . .  You suck."

The recipient's "bullshit"? Complaining about the Men's Grill. For decades, the sporty central Phoenix club has kept its casual dining rooms sex-segregated. Naturally, the men get an airy bar and grill with flat-screen TVs and a patio; the women get a little nook with a salad bar.

Women can buy pricey memberships to the Phoenix Country Club, but they get called "lezzies" and "feminazis" if they complain about its Men's Grill.
Jay Bennett
Women can buy pricey memberships to the Phoenix Country Club, but they get called "lezzies" and "feminazis" if they complain about its Men's Grill.

Location Info


Phoenix Country Club

2901 N. Seventh St.
Phoenix, AZ 85014

Category: Sports and Recreation

Region: Central Phoenix

All this might have been uncontroversial in 1958. But in 2007, a pair of longtime members, Logan and Barbara Van Sittert, filed a formal complaint with the state attorney general — and a (hardly) civil war has been waged by the membership ever since. Logan Van Sittert found his locker vandalized. Graffiti calling Barbara a bitch appeared on the golf course. One of the club's best golfers, a lawyer named Rusty Brown, was reprimanded by the club after he criticized the segregated grills at a luncheon sponsored by the Arizona Women Lawyers Association.

And then came the e-mails.

No surprise, the writer did not sign his name. He was using a gmail account, apparently established solely for the purpose of the harassment. In the address line, he gave his name as "Kick the Bastards Out."

Kick the Bastards Out was a busy little bee this spring. He sent e-mails to several female critics of the Men's Grill. He also fired off e-mails warning critical club members like Rusty Brown that their personal information would be posted on Web sites around town — and then did so, posting two members' phone numbers on, the classified advertising site controlled by New Times.

He titled the post "femi natzis . . . HERE IN PHOENIX."

Lock up your wife and daughter! The femi natzis are here!

In the rarefied world of the Phoenix Country Club, it was scandalous stuff. The club's members are physicians, political consultants, and top lawyers at the big firms. (Barry Goldwater himself used to be president.) They are not, generally, angry ditto-heads with a third-grade mastery of spelling.

The club's board of directors insisted that it was powerless to stop the harassment.

When one of the victims complained, then-board president William Maledon — Maledon as in Osborn Maledon, one of the city's top law firms — sent him an e-mail claiming that it was impossible to take action. The board, Maledon wrote, had done everything from consulting "IT experts" to talking to security at the Maricopa County Superior Court. (One of the alleged "lezzies," as it turns out, is a judge there.)

Nobody had any idea how to trace the e-mail.

"If the Board knew who sent them, I have no doubt that that person would be expelled from the club," Maledon wrote.

Well, those "IT experts" and "security" people must have been morons.

It might be news to anyone over 50, but of course you can trace e-mail addresses and the source of nasty comments. You just need to file a lawsuit, and the court will compel Google or Yahoo! or even to turn over information about who signed up for the e-mail address or who made the offensive posts. Only Web whizzes know how to hide this sort of information from the combined eyes of the law and Internet service providers.

Kick the Bastards Out, it's safe to say, was no whiz.

So, two club members filed a lawsuit. Google turned over what it had about the origins of the e-mail account; so did

Only then did it become clear why the board had done such a cursory "investigation."

The guy who'd posted the nasty comments, the guy who'd sent the nasty e-mails, was a member of the board of directors, Mike Hayes.


Last year, when I broke the story about the Phoenix Country Club's grill problem, I was, I have to admit, fairly blasé about the Men's Grill issue ("Men Behaving Badly," July 19, 2007).

I write frequently about innocent people caught up in events beyond their control; people facing years in prison for a silly mistake; people who stand to lose their kids because of inept bureaucracy. When you're looking at matters of life and death and incarceration, anything that has to do with a country club seems pretty frivolous.

So a group of rich people decides to bar women from one of its dining facilities? Cry me a freakin' river.

But a funny thing happened when the attorney general began to look into the Van Sitterts' complaint. A certain element of the club went nuts.

The board of directors changed the club rules so that a woman can't inherit a membership if her husband kicks the bucket. She'd have to re-apply. (Apparently, the club's grand poobahs thought that Barbara Van Sittert would outlive her husband — if Logan were to kick it, they could be rid of the couple for good.)

They passed another rule saying that anyone who files a lawsuit against the club, or even threatens one, can be expelled from PCC — and held responsible for all legal fees, no matter what the outcome.

They decreed that any member who made "derogatory or otherwise injurious comments" to the media would face expulsion.

And, most appallingly, they filed a lawsuit against the Van Sitterts. Court records show that the Van Sitterts were sued in April 2008, roughly one year after they filed the complaint with Attorney General Terry Goddard.

Logan Van Sittert, who is an architect, had supervised a minor improvement project at the club in 2001. Court records show he designed and managed a $55,500 project to construct two restrooms and a pair of drinking fountains on the golf course. The club is now suing for negligence and breach of contract over alleged "deficient design and construction."

Here's where it gets funny. Supposedly, the club found "microbial growth" in March 2007 — just months after the Van Sitterts started making noise about the Men's Grill.

Can't you just see these clowns, hunting frantically for some way to fire back at the couple? Several men on the board of directors are in the construction industry; I can just imagine one of them saying, "Hey, piece of cake! We'll send experts out to case the golf course toilets — how much do you wanna bet we can find some microbial growth?"

It's kind of amazing. The guys running this club, the board of directors, include lawyers at some of the most reasonable, respectable firms in town. They've got William Maledon, of Osborn Maledon. They've got Joel Hoxie, of Snell & Wilmer. They've got Tim Brown, of Gallagher & Kennedy. And yet they've let a minor impasse turn into a major imbroglio.

When I first wrote about this issue, I wondered what the big deal was about the Men's Grill: Why did Barbara Van Sittert think it was worth fighting to get in?

But now I'm wondering what the big deal is about the grill for an entirely different reason. Namely, why is the club's board of directors fighting so ridiculously hard just to keep women out?

Last month, the board expelled a member for making innocuous comments to the media. Rusty Brown, an attorney and six-time winner of the club's golf championship, had told the New York Times that "most men are indifferent to the [men's-only grill] policy or against it" — and was booted for it. The club seemed stunned when that decision touched off another round of negative press. (Even Golf World magazine suddenly found the controversy interesting.)

Court records show that Brown was one of the original targets of the club's anonymous e-mailer, Kick the Bastards Out. Bastard, as I'll call him for short, posted Brown's personal information on — triggering a lawsuit from Brown and fellow attorney Ron Warnicke.

And though the lawsuit doesn't give information about the incident's aftermath, a packet of documents that arrived in my mailbox this month does.

The documents, which appear to be a series of back-and-forth e-mails among board members and attorney Warnicke, reveal the culprit's identity as that of board member Mike Hayes, who works for Momentum Transportation. (Hayes did not reply to a message seeking comment.)

Apparently, after the suit was filed, Google sent Hayes a letter saying that his "Kick the Bastards Out" gmail account had been subject to a subpoena. Google intended to reveal his identity to the club.

At that point, Hayes must have realized he was in trouble. According to the e-mails I obtained, Hayes then went to the board to "confess" his role in the nasty messages.

Word at PCC is that he was allowed to resign. (The club's new president, Mike Krueger, didn't return calls for comment. Hey, the guy is probably worried about expulsion if he opens his yap.)

So, let me recap. The club kicked out Rusty Brown for telling the New York Times that most of the club members were really good guys who did not, in fact, want a men's-only grill.

And yet Mike Hayes was allowed to resign quietly after hassling at least four club members with messages calling them "lezzies," "femi natzis," and "dorks"? (Yes, he really used the word "dorks." And, no, I don't think Mike Hayes is 12.)

It boggles the mind.

I've heard from Phoenix Country Club members who want to know why I've written about their Men's Grill but haven't written anything about the gender-segregated dining options at the Arizona Country Club and Paradise Valley Country Club.

They've got a point, but it only goes so far.

When Logan and Barbara Van Sittert first wrote a letter to the board, demanding that the Men's Grill be opened to women, the board could have made this whole thing go away. They could have acquiesced. Or compromised. Or probably even ignored them.

We reporters have short attention spans. We'd have written about the situation once, but we would have moved on.

But then a few angry members created a carnival. They changed the membership rules, enacted a stupid media policy, and decided to sue the Van Sitterts. Now that Attorney General Terry Goddard has informed the club that he believes the Men's Grill violates civil rights law, the club has vowed to fight on.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, another longtime club member filed suit. Attorney Frederick Berry is asking a judge to declare that the club's newly approved policies violate its members' civil rights. He argues that the club can't stop members from talking to the media, or filing lawsuits.

Berry also asks for the court to declare that the club is a public accommodation — a decision that would, on its face, make the Men's Grill unconstitutional. (Only private clubs can discriminate on the basis of gender.)

Finally, thanks to the documents that were leaked to me this month, we learn that at least one member of the board of directors was not only a hopeless Neanderthal, but one stupid enough to enshrine his comments on a public forum. And the board was more than willing to bury the incident without investigation!

Why do I keep writing about the Phoenix Country Club?

I couldn't make up a story this good.

Show Pages
My Voice Nation Help

This is pretty bad in terms of trying a group/club/organization going to such great inappropriate lengths to shut down an "idea". I truly believe that The Phoenix Country Club could have taken a common vote amongst members and it most likely would have been shot down. As sexist as it is, I am in favor of having exclusive clubs and associations based on gender. It works for both sides, men and women. Women have several "women-only" healthclubs and I get and fully understand the concept that women want to be able to work out without feeling harrased or likely embarrased at their physical appearance or even the excercises they are performing amongst the male species. For men on the flip side there aren't too many places in this country that are exclusive to men only - unless your 90 years old going to the Buffalo Club or Shriners...and even then I'm not so certain it's men only.??The golf course is a unique place. I've played the sport since I was a kid and I honestly can't rank many things higher on my list of 'fun' things to do than enjoying 18 holes on a beautiful sunny day...HECK, even a miserable day!The point is, I understand the wants & needs of a male only club. Guys want a place where they don't have to whisper a 'naughty' joke, or blow of some steam on the fact that women are a whole different species and that more often than not, as much as we hate to admit, we truly don't understand much of what they do. We just want our own designated time and space to be with other men who enjoy, appreciate, sympathize, and respect what men go through in a lifetime.On another note I am not at all against females on the course itself, or in "their" relatively equal ammenities of the clubhouse. I'm all in favor of having a womans day or designated hours on the golf course for women to play. I think it is fair and respectful to private golf clubs to allot this time strictly for female members. Firstly, it allows females to meet and network with probably what few female members there are in the club...Secondly, It allows men the choice to play amongst them or pick another time/day. In all honesty, women in general, are slower golfers and usually take 1 to an 1.5 hrs longer to play a round than men. So my point is that society should allow each gender ther own spaces and although I disagree with the shanigans and petty actions displayed by the PCC I do agree with the overall message that the Mens Grill should stay exactly that...Men ONLY.


It is said that everyone is bi to some extent. Not sure about this. But I also heard about the same from some professional sites. Maybe it depends on how to define it.

If you can appreciate the beauty in both men and women, and find yourself attracted to the person regardless of their gender, then you are bi. Many hot and sexy bi singles & couples on ** BiLoves dotcom ** are looking to explore their bisexuality, coming out or enjoying their lives as bi here.

If you are not sure whether You Are Gay, Lesbian Or Bisexual,you may check The psychotherapist Dominic Davies will tell you the answer.

Mountain out of a molehill!
Mountain out of a molehill!

Sarah, you're right -- you couldn't make up a story this good! This story says a lot about the power players in town and why Arizona and Maricopa County are so backwards. Can't wait to read the next chapter!

Who's paying the legal fees?

Noble Beckham
Noble Beckham

Sick people in nice clothes with too much time and money on their hands.

Phoenix Concert Tickets