The Plight of the African-American Professional Golfer
Good morning, hope this Monday comes with you doing well. With all that is transpiring in the world, especially here in the U.S., I thought this would be an appropriate subject. Race has always been a sensitive subject and it always will. It's hard to understand the viewpoint of someone of a different race unless you take the time to actually listen to what they have to say. You may not agree with what that person has to say, but you might have a better understanding of why they do certain things. In this conversation, I'm going to focus on what I've experienced in the world of golf. This is strictly my opinion.
I've been playing a local mini-tour in the Charlotte and surrounding area off and on for the last 4 years. In those 4 years. I've seen 3 other African-American players. Let that sink in a minute. In 4 years, I've seen only seen 3 African-American players. I know there are a substantial amount of quality players in the area. Why are we not out in force playing in these events? Why are we not out forcing the issue? From my experience, it starts as soon as I step out of the car. It's 2016 and I still have people staring at me as soon as I pull in the parking lot. Then the sense of isolation hits. Everyone for the most part is friendly, but I still keep my guard up. I'm always dressed appropriately, well mannered, well spoken and businesslike. I always keep it in my head to make it easier for the next man up.There are times when I feel like certain people are waiting for me to do something stupid so justifications can be made. Once on the course, the thoughts dissipate and I just play golf. Once the round is over, I never stick around to chat with the other players. I usually wait for the scores and head straight for the car. I admit, there are times when I isolate myself for no real reason. Sometimes, from previous experiences, it just happens that way.
Now, let's talk a bit about support. I practice at Charles L Sifford GC in Charlotte, NC. I love it there. Wes Jones and the staff do a great job and have made me feel welcome. You see living history almost everyday. There are African-American players that couldn't play there when they were younger because it was a segregated course. Many of them were Tour worthy players. It is also home to The First Tee of Charlotte. This is an organization that gets kids involved early and teaches them not only golf, but values that can be used later in life. My concern is once some of these kids get to the point of turning pro, where are they going to find the money. Let's be frank, golf is an expensive sport. The better you become, the more time it consumes. You can't really hold down a job if you want to play full-time. That is your job. How do we get more support from the African-American community for players trying to make that jump into the professional ranks. It seems so often that as players we are trying to raise funds from the same group of people. There's only so much to go around. I once asked a former African-American player for advice, not sponsorship, and he politely told me I would have to figure that out on my own. It seems that we at times don't want to make it easier for the next man up. Is it the mentality of if I had to struggle, you need to struggle? With walls like this, no wonder we are few and far between on the PGA. I met a quality young man that is a college player. He was talking about getting a 3 wood. I happened to have one in my trunk that was a few years old and I gave it to him. I happen to be playing a 3 wood that I friend gave to me. I don't have a lot of money. Okay, let's be real. I don't have any money, but I helped him how I could. Isn't that the way it should be? The struggle will continue until we start helping the next man up. If you see me out on the range, come say hello and have a conversation. Have a great week and remember to thank your PGA professional.