Why is Woods the only black golfer?

Discussion in 'Golf' started by jaxvid, Apr 3, 2007.

  1. jaxvid

    jaxvid Hall of Famer

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    A mainstream article asking the question "where are all of the other black golfers?" The answer MONEY. And white racism. Those two obstacles preventing blacks from being the greatest achievers in the universe!

    Nowhere in the article is it brought up that they may just not be good enough. Think that issue would be avoided when talking about why there are no white running backs?

    Ten years and counting

    By Michael Arkush, Yahoo! Sports
    April 2, 2007

    Tiger Woods' 12-shot triumph at the 1997 Masters was about more than one man conquering a golf course and his competition. It was about a member of a race long mistreated capturing one of the sport's most prized possessions - the green jacket - for the first time.

    It was also about hope.

    The Masters, which did not have an African-American participant until Lee Elder in 1975, would never be the same. Nor, presumably, would the game itself. Soon there would be other blacks to join Woods on the PGA Tour, surely within 10 years.

    Well, it has been 10 years since Woods' historic win, and he is still the only black golfer on the PGA Tour. The biggest reason: Money.

    "It's very simple," said Pete McDaniel, a senior writer for Golf Digest who is black. "Those with the potential haven't gotten the financial backing.

    "I wouldn't put the blame on the Fortune 500 companies or the major manufacturers. The blame goes to the African-American community. There's enough wealth to support these players. We just don't think it's a priority."

    Calvin Peete, an 11-time PGA Tour winner who's also black, concurred. "Money is still the No. 1 handicap," the 1985 Players Championship titlist said.

    When Peete joined the tour in the early 1970s, he said his expenses totaled about $20,000 per year. Today, that figure is closer to about $60,000, he estimates. The financial obstacles, however, get in the way much earlier.

    Peete, who helps coach the Edward Waters College golf team in Jacksonville, Fla., said many black youths from single-parent homes aren't able to practice as much as they should because they can't get rides to the course.

    "Moms are working and can't take off," said Peete, who didn't pick up the game until his early 20's. "... Kids come to the course maybe once a week, on Saturdays, instead of two or three times a week."

    The First Tee teaches the game to youngsters across the country, many from diverse backgrounds. The program's executive director, Joe Louis Barrow Jr., acknowledges the financial burden, but he also points to the importance of a family's dedication.

    "Golf is not unlike any other sport," Barrow said. "If you want to be a good football player, your parents have to take you to Pop Warner. If you want to be in Little League, your parents have to take you to Little League."

    As for the game being too expensive, Barrow doesn't buy that excuse.

    "Recreational golf is very affordable," Barrow said. "You have a lot of public access in this country where you can play during the week for 10, 15, or 20 dollars. You can't go to a baseball game for that. Kids spend 10, 15 dollars at the mall on the weekends. ... You can get equipment in this country, too, at a very affordable price."

    Barrow believes the media's expectation that other black golfers would join Woods within five to 10 years of his first Masters win wasn't reasonable in the first place. For starters, the caddie system - the route earlier African-American players such as Elder, Charlie Sifford, Pete Brown, Jim Dent, Teddy Rhodes, Bill Spiller and Jim Thorpe took to reach the professional ranks - is not available anymore.

    Moreover, instead of golf, young black athletes have chosen "sports that are in their backyards, at the end of their blocks, in the park, around the corner," Barrow said.

    "When the caddie system went away," Barrow explained, "a lot of individuals who were exposed to the game of golf from diverse backgrounds no longer had that exposure."

    The lack of another black at the highest level of a sport long known for its white domination - until 1961 a "Caucasians only" clause prevented blacks from becoming tour members - remains a source of disappointment.

    McDaniel suggests African-American businesses and individuals create a pool of about $5 million to pay for training, lessons and other expenses for those with a legitimate shot at making the big leagues. Even with the funding, though, most players would still need to refine their games for several years on one of the mini-tours where there isn't much prize money for even those who do well.

    "It has to be a committed sponsorship for a number of years," McDaniel said. "You have to see these players to the finish line. They started 10 paces behind.

    "I'd like to see what would happen if they (aspiring black golfers) were to have the same opportunities and we could stop crying foul. My hunch is that one of them would break through."

    Tim O'Neal almost did. Needing only a bogey on the final hole of the 2000 Qualifying School to earn his PGA Tour card, O'Neal sliced his drive into the water and made triple bogey. Four years later, he missed qualifying by a shot.

    O'Neal, 33, who was backed for several years by actor Will Smith and has been coached by swing guru Butch Harmon, plays on the Nationwide Tour these days. Last year, O'Neal finished 36th on the money list with just over $150,000. He remains very confident.

    "I'm moving in the right direction," O'Neal said. "I thought I'd be on the PGA Tour by now. As long as I keep getting better, I'll be fine."

    Another black golfer with a realistic chance of joining Woods is Andy Walker, who played on the NCAA championship squad at Pepperdine in 1997 and currently tees it up on The Gateway Tour in Arizona.

    "There are players in the pipeline," Barrow said.

    It includes The First Tee, which was launched about six months after Woods' breakthrough at Augusta. Through 2006, Barrow said the program has reached about 850,000 youngsters, including 50 percent from diverse backgrounds with 22 to 24 percent, depending on the year, being African-American.

    "Our first graduates are just now graduating from college," Barrow said.

    But should Tiger be more involved in the cause? McDaniel came to Woods' defense.

    "Tiger has been unfairly criticized," McDaniel said. "It's not his job. It's the African-American community's job."

    "He's only one person," added Renee Powell, an African-American who played on the LPGA Tour during the 1960s and 70's.

    In 2000, Barrow was asked when The First Tee was going to produce the next Tiger. Before he could respond, Barrow was interrupted by someone with a little more experience on the subject of golf's biggest star - Woods' father.

    Said Earl Woods: "It took me 20 years to create Tiger Woods."
     

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