Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Slow but Steady: Advocates Seek Ways to Stimulate Top-Level Participation among Minorities in College and Professional Golf

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Slow but Steady: Advocates Seek Ways to Stimulate Top-Level Participation among Minorities in College and Professional Golf

Article excerpt

Former Stanford University standout Tiger Woods has single-handedly crushed all racial stereotypes about Blacks' ability to play golf at the highest collegiate and professional levels. But while Woods' success has spawned more interest in the game among Blacks, there's no tangible evidence more Blacks will follow him in the pro ranks any time soon.

The fact is, Blacks are virtually nonexistent at the professional level. The highly visible Woods is the lone Black on the PGA Tour and Andy Walker is the only Black competing on the Buy.com Tour, which is one rung below the PGA. On the women's side, the story is even worse. No Black women are playing full time on the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. The last to do so were UCLA star LaRee Sugg and Nakia Powell, who played the tour two years ago.

People familiar with junior, collegiate and pro golf say that in order to get a better understanding of the reasons behind the shortage of Black golfers capable of competing as pros, a look at the game's feeder system, pre-college and college programs, is necessary.

According to the most recent statistics compiled by the NCAA, Black males and females combined (historically Black colleges and universities included) make up 4.8 percent of the 10,793 athletes who played NCAA golf during the 1999-2000 school year.

"We're not even close to having decent participation numbers," says Barbara Douglas, president of the National Minority Golf Foundation, an organization devoted to increasing minority participation in the sport. "We're not where we'd like to be. But we do have more (junior level) kids in the pipeline, and that's encouraging."

Pete McDaniel, senior writer for Golf Digest and co-author, along with Tiger's father Earl Woods, of the best-seller Training a Tiger, contends that starting up golf academies is a viable method of developing minority junior golfers who one day will be able to contend for college scholarships and possibly play professionally. These academies, similar to those in junior tennis, would be managed and operated by PGA-trained professionals. Youngsters who show potential and have a desire to play would be identified and placed in an academy setting where they would get the best of academics, golf instruction and tournament competition.

"You put kids in that kind of program for 12 years and you create a situation where they're in an environment that will help them become good enough to compete against the very best," McDaniel says. "Bring in 50 kids a year and if you get 10 who can play at that level, that's what needs to happen. That's how you develop a pipeline for top-of-the-line golf talent."

Among college golf's elite, there's more of a Black presence than on the pro tours, but not by much. Andia Winslow and Kimberly Brown (Yale University), Kevin Hall (Ohio State University), Stephen Reed (Texas A&M University), Kerrie Davis (University of Mississippi), Daniel Diggs (Central Connecticut State University) and John Fizer (University of Virginia) are considered to be the most promising Black collegiate players in America.

TEAMS ON THE RISE

For the most part, Black colleges haven't fared well in the annual NCAA golf tournament. Yet, there are teams on the rise, including perennial powerhouse Jackson State University, along with Tennessee State and Florida A&M universities, plus the women's teams from Jackson State, Bethune-Cookman College, and Hampton and Alabama State universities.

"The game is growing faster than ever and more kids are starting to play at an early age," says Jackson State coach Eddie Payton. "Black colleges may still be a little behind our mainstream counterparts when it comes to players' skills and the level of competition we play. But at Jackson State, I believe that with the right set of circumstances and with the right set of athletes, things can happen. If we can keep getting there (NCAA tournament) repeatedly, we can win it eventually. …

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