University of Maryland Eastern Shore Aims to Start First Golf Degree at HBCU

Article excerpt

PRINCESS ANNE, MD.

A manicured golf course was right across the street from the house where Christina Cooper spent her childhood.

But growing up Black in Baltimore, Cooper never thought of golf as a game for her--until her college announced plans to offer the nation's first golf management degree at a historically Black university, and opened up for-credit lessons and a driving range on campus.

"I kind of always wanted to play, but I never did. It was expensive, kind of a club," says the 22-year-old biology major, who is taking Golf Instruction 101. "When I think of golf, I think of rich people and country clubs. So that's cool that they're teaching us this."

The Golf Academy at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore is still in its infancy. Started last year, the only course is a one-credit elective, and school officials say their dreams of building a golf course on campus and offering a bachelor's degree in golf management are years away. But school president Dr. Thelma B. Thompson has ambitious goals. She envisions UMES as a way to introduce the game to students who didn't have access to it growing up and would like to see it become the nation's first historically Black college with a PGA-endorsed degree in golf management.

"Golf is a growing sport for minorities and women right now, and we want to focus on the future," says Thompson, who got the idea after visiting the Princess Anne campus in 2002 as a prospective president. She says the college's lush landscaping reminded her of a golf course.

Three semesters ago, the UMES Golf Academy set up an office in a racquetball court in the school gym and started asking the 3,800 students through e-mails and flyers if they wanted to learn golf. …