After injuring himself playing football, Roderick Turner sought a new sport to pique his interest. That sport turned out to be golf and he has been playing since 1994. Turner’s curiosity in golf came through the help of his friends. Unlike basketball and football, golf isn’t saturated with African-American players. This too sparked Turner’s interest in the game.
“From my own personal experience in the Black golfing community, there seems to be a lot of interest in the sport,” said Turner. “There just isn’t a lot of knowledge of the rich history and the role that African Americans played in that history.”
With pioneers like Teddy Rhodes, Thea Gibson and Bill Spiller, it was expected that Tiger Woods would lead in a new generation of Black golfers who would dominate the sport. Sixteen years into Woods’ illustrious career he’s number one in the world, but the predicted avalanche of African Americans following in his footsteps has yet to be seen. Though, it may be on the way.
Thanks to the anticipation and hype behind Woods and the annual Georgia golf classic, The Masters, in Augusta, Black golfers and Black-owned golf courses have become a more usual sight than ever in the peach state.
Rome Matthews picked up golf as a hobby in 2009 after being offered a job at a local course. Although golf wasn’t an initial favorite, the game grew on him and he says it has taught him valuable morals.
“Golf is a really humbling game,” said Matthews. “It’s not like basketball or football where you have people yelling and going crazy. It’s very gentle and teaches integrity. We need more sports like it, especially for the youth.”
Recently, there has been also been a push to get young people more involved with the game.
The Ryan Cameron Foundation held its 8th Annual Youth Golf Clinic at Charlie Yates Golf Clinic on Saturday during The Masters. The clinic focused on teaching young people the core aspects of the game of golf while emphasizing the skills of strategy, discipline and teamwork.
“A one point it became really popular for celebrities to host golfing events for adults so I decided to change it up and do something for the youth,” said Ryan Cameron, the V-103 morning show host and host of the tournament. “Golf is the only sport that you can play well into your 90s. It’s not about physical strength but strategy. I wanted to teach the kids these skills early on. I regret not getting into golf sooner than I did.”
This year’s participants included members from the Ryan Cameron Leadership Academy, Ivy Prep Academy, First Tee of East Lake and Black Star Educational Institute.
“A lot of the students who participate with the foundation were saying that they wanted to do something nontraditional,” said Tracye Bryant, CEO of the Ryan Cameron Foundation. “So we decided to get them away from football and basketball and teach them golf.”
Participants received a free full set of personal golf clubs and professional instruction from PGA professional golf players.
Wesley Wallace, a senior at Mount Zion High School, has been a member of the Cameron Leadership Academy for four years. He was introduced to golf as a freshman in high school and hopes to play professionally.
“I didn’t think I would ever play golf and actually enjoy it,” said Wallace. “These clinics introduced me to the sport and now I am the captain of my school’s golf team. It has helped me build patience and I am considering golf as a career.”
Although golf still has not become the most popular sport among African Americans, many Black golfers stress the valuable lessons and skills to be learned through the game.
“No one wants their child out in public misrepresenting their family,” said Matthews. “Golf teaches how to dress and speak well. It teaches proper manners. There’s a whole etiquette to it. It’s a gentleman’s sport.”