Ernie Andrews looks out to the grounds of the historic Langston Golf Course in Washington, D.C.
He notes that fewer young black golf players are coming out to play these days.
Andrews is a longtime professional golf teacher and manager at Langston. The course was once one of the few in the United States where African Americans were permitted to play the sport.
Today, though, Andrews feels hopeful. A sports star recently donated a large amount of money to restart a golf program at the historically black Howard University. This could help grow new interest in the sport among young African Americans.
“This is a great sport, and we have too much tradition as a people trying to get into the sport to lose it now,” Andrews said.
Stephen Curry is a leading player in the National Basketball Association. His gift to Howard in Washington is bringing new attention to golf at historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.
Few African Americans are currently playing the sport at the college and professional levels. HBCUs play a major part in increasing diversity in golf.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association or NCAA says only about 300 of the more than 10,000 college golfers are black. And just three African-American golfers are on the Professional Golf Association’s Tour: Tiger Woods, Harold Varner III and Cameron Champ.
More than half of the collegiate black golfers compete at HBCUs. However, those programs are always struggling for survival. Only about 25 percent of the more than 100 HBCUs have golf teams, said Craig Bowen. He is president and founder of the Black College Golf Coaches’ Association.
Howard University ended its golf program back in the 1970s. Last week, Curry intervened. He donated some of his great wealth toward a six-year deal to help Howard relaunch its men’s and women’s teams for the 2020-2021 school year.
Jackson State University in Mississippi made history in 2007 by becoming the first HBCU to compete in the NCAA Division I golf tournament. But the university suspended its golf teams 10 years later when it faced a budget crisis.
Some HBCUs struggle to find black golfers. So, they include white players on their teams. The golf programs are usually among the first to get targeted during budget cuts.
“It’s not football or basketball generating dollars, and they don’t want to go out and spend money and actually have to go out and raise money for golf,” said Bowen. He has coached golf at Illinois's Chicago State and Benedict College in South Carolina. Both schools are HBCUs.
In 1997, Tiger Woods became the first African American -- and the youngest player ever -- to win the Masters Tournament. The event is held at a golf center that once did not permit black players. Many observers at the time believed his win would lead to a new generation of African American players on the PGA Tour.
But that did not happen, partly because of the high costs linked to play at the professional level.
Curry loves to play golf. He made the announcement about his Howard donation at Langston, which was one of the few U.S. golf courses that let African Americans play when it opened in 1939.
African Americans made steady progress in golf after the opening.
Charlie Sifford joined the PGA Tour in 1961 after the organization ended a whites-only policy that kept golfers of color shut out.
In 1964, Althea Gibson, a tennis star who also played professional golf, became the first black woman to play in the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour.
However, Ernie Andrews said young golfers still have to fight the opinion that golf is “a white man’s” sport. He hopes that a rebirth of HBCU golf teams will help bring more young African Americans into the sport.
Golf is a great way to teach discipline and perseverance, he said.
“We use golf, but the real teaching is about life,” Andrews said.
I’m Caty Weaver.
Words in This Story
golf - n. a game in which a player using special clubs attempts to sink a ball with as few strokes as possible into each of the 9 or 18 successive holes on a course
manager - n. someone who is in charge of a business, department, etc.
diversity - n. the condition of having or being composed of differing elements, especially: the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization
tournament - n. a series of games or contests that make up a single unit of competition (as on a professional golf tour), the championship playoffs of a league or conference, or an invitational event
steady - n. direct or sure in movement
discipline - n. orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior
perseverance - n. continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition