Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

TURF: There Are Other Professionals on the Golfing Green

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

TURF: There Are Other Professionals on the Golfing Green

Article excerpt

TURF: There Are Other Professionals on the Golfing Green.

by Mitch Gitman

The phenomenal success of new U.S. Amateur Champion Tiger Woods notwithstanding, American golf is still about as white as the ball the sport is played with.

But while public attention has focused on the top competitors and on efforts to integrate the membership rolls of private golf clubs, there has not been much diversity in golf's key support positions, such as club manager or golf course superintendent.

And while openings, ever so slowly, are beginning to appear for women and some minorities, an African American running a golf course or club is still a rarity.

Pat Jones, spokesman for the Golf Course Superintendents Association, noted that in the past five or six years women have begun entering the field in significant numbers. "I think it's become very clear that this is a career path that is very advantageous for women who traditionally may have gone into horticulture or landscape design--related academic fields--because the professional opportunities are better for them in golf. Frankly, the compensation's often better. The potential for advancement's better."

As an example of a well-known female superintendent, Jones offered Patricia Knaggs, superintendent at the prestigious Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska, MN. "But there's probably a dozen more around the country at, or approaching her level, who are prominent professionals at very well-known clubs," he added.

As for minorities, Jones said that the organization doesn't keep records of members' ethnicity, although he believes there are considerable numbers of Hispanic and Asian superintendents in the Western states.

One prominent minority superintendent is Peter Smith, a Native American who tends the greens at Long Island's historic Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

Smith said, "In general there are not a lot of minorities. You have to be exposed to it at an early age. And a lot of minorities obviously weren't in the private clubs. So the tendency was not to go into golf."

Smith, superintendent at Shinnecock Hills for 14 years, is a Shinnecock Indian who grew up with such exposure. The golf course was built on ancestral tribal lands more than 100 years ago, and he succeeded his late father, Elmer Smith, who was superintendent for more than 30 years; his grandfather also worked on the course. Shinnecock Hills, in Southampton, NY, will be the site for next year's U.S. Open, which the club hosted previously in 1986.

Smith was able to cite one African American superintendent, Elton Etheridge of neighboring Southampton Golf Course. But Bill Dickey, president of the National Minority Junior Golf Scholarship Association, couldn't recall any Black superintendents from his 11 years of experience as president of the organization -- which this year will be awarding $50,000 in college scholarships to 40 to 50 minority golfers, most of whom are Black.

Dickey was at a loss for an explanation for such a scarcity, "except that maybe youngsters do not know that those opportunities exist...."

Unaware of Opportunities?

John Piersol, chairman of the Division of Golf Course Operations/Landscape Technology at Lake City Community College in northern Florida, went further. "I think the opportunity is there for minorities and females in the golf and landscape industries," he remarked. …

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