After two decades of perhaps the greatest golfer ever gracing the PGA, (Mr. Tiger Woods) you would think more minorities would be attracted to the sport, right? Wrong, and it’s quite the opposite. There are only a handful of black golfers that played on the PGA Tour prior to Mr. Tiger Woods and even less notable ones post “Tiger Woods Era”. We will get into that a little later but for now let’s look at the percentages from the top three sports where minorities dominate. The NFL is 70% black and the NBA is over 74.4% black, and lets just throw in baseball. (Get it.. throw in..but anyway) Baseball is coming in at around 8.5% black, making it an all-time low for black players. This has some baseball purist wondering about the future of the sport, but this blog is about golf.
The primary sports and participation for young black males are football and basketball. On a side note, young black females haven’t taken an interest in golf either, just to be clear. The dream is to make it to the NFL, NBA and WNBA. Both sports have marketed their brand in showing that black athletes can be successful in their leagues. In order to see golf commercials (marketing) you have to watch a golfing event. Realistically, there aren’t too many young black kids watching golf tournaments on weekends. Especially if a basketball or football game is on Television. Then you have the lifestyle of a golfer that does not appeal to most black kids. Golf does not have the glitz and glamour like its counterparts, it’s not interesting and it’s difficult for minority kids to relate. I have watched many golf tournaments and still see basketball and football advertisements during commercial breaks. I have not seen too many golf commercials during a football or basketball contest. Golf is not packaging their brand towards the minority markets. Maybe this is on purpose? Maybe the PGA like the way things are right now? Maybe the PGA is not trying to welcome minorities and like “their brand” the way it is…
The PGA Tour started back in 1929 and of course, blacks were not permitted to play professional sports. In golf, a lot of blacks started out on the bag (caddie) that carried clubs and helped the golfer with course reading for each hole; this was the job of a caddie. This is how most blacks got into playing golf. Mr. Charles Sifford was the first black to play on the PGA tour where he had 2 wins during his career. Mr. Sifford is considered the Jackie Robinson of golf because he was the first. Casual sports fans haven’t heard of him, unfortunately. Tiger Woods has mentioned him and why he is thankful to Mr. Sifford for opening up the game and paving the way. We also have to speak about Mr. Pete Brown. He was the first black to win on the PGA tour where he earned 2 wins in his PGA career. Also Mr. Lee Elder, who was very monumental because he was the first black to play in The Masters and he finished his career with 4 PGA Tour wins. Some may have heard of Mr. Calvin Pete because he was the most successful black to play on the PGA until Tiger Woods came along in 1996. Mr. Calvin Pete boasted 12 wins on the PGA tour from 1976 until 1988. This would be the last black until 1996 when Tiger won PGA Rookie Of The Year (almost a decade later).
As we know, golf is not a household name to the average minority. Not too many kids say they want to be the next Mr. Calvin Pete or even arguably the greatest golfer Tiger Woods. Golf, it’s not a team oriented sport and most minorities are raised in environments where teams sports are all they have. The team concept is almost like an extended family. Many of these homes are broken homes so sports can provide a sense of love and togetherness. Golf is a sport where you’re basically on your own team. Many times your practice alone. You have to manage you own schedule to improve your game. Yes, I know kids practice and train alone with basketball and other sports as well. Lets dial into what it takes to become a world-class golfer on the PGA Tour shall we. This might be the reason why the PGA is not attracting more minority players, or are they even trying at all?
I’d like to share some information for perspective real quick. The average golfer on the PGA tour this season is shooting scores around 68 with par being par 72. This looks like it should be easy, right? What is 4 strokes? Wrong, a lot! Remember a 68 average means that some are shooting scores like 65, 66 in a round, and to add to that golf is the sport that also takes away from your score with it being played over 4-days. You have to make the cut which so many players don’t make, and the pin (the flag) is moved each day. Your marks will not be the same each day, and with Sunday the pin being in the most difficult place on the course. In golf you don’t play the golfer you play the course, the conditions (weather), and you play yourself. Hitting fairways and making putts; putting you in best possible position to make low scores.
Okay, there are two ways you can go about becoming a good golfer and attempting to turn pro. The first way is going to Q-School. This is the way many golfers go and even players that are on the Web Tour which is the minor league to the PGA Tour. The goal is to earn your PGA card that exempt you from having to pay for PGA Tournaments and yes it’s a fee that you must pay if you don't have your PGA card. Now winning Q-School you could walk away with $50,000 and your PGA card but dues have to be paid before you get there and if you get there is the question. Q-School is a 4 day event just like a golf tournament where best scores advance and you have to make the cut. You are all set and ready to go play some golf!
The first round is pre-qualifier round (Thursday) this round will cost you $2,700. Remember at anytime you can miss the cut and when you do, you are out of your money, no refund. But lets say you advance and make it to the next round (Friday) which is the First qualifying round -- this will cost you $4,500 after you just paid $2,700 in round one. Remember it’s a four day event starting on Thursday and ending on Sunday. With that in mind, you advance to the next round Second Qualifying Stage and it will cost $4,000 so now you have a shot going into the finial day (Sunday) and that will cost you $3,500 to play. Your total bill for four days of golf if you make it is $14,700. If you make it all four days you will make it in the money round. With that, you still get to take home a nice piece of change with first place $50,000, second place $40,000, third place $35,000, fourth place $30,000, fifth place $27,000 and sixth through 25th is $25,000 a piece. So it’s not bad if you can finish Q-School in the top 25. Remember top 25.
So the second way is to not go to Q-School and compete in local amateur tournaments and if you play well move on to playing in mini-tour events. At this point you should have a golf coach helping you with your game. If you play as an amateur you can not accept money but you will be responsible for your travel and entry fee for each tournament. If you make it this far you can enter some of the PGA tour tournaments. Making it to the final round does not qualify you for your PGA card but are you are eligible for the Nationwide Tour. To keep your PGA Tour card you have to stay in the top money list and stay in the top 50 golfers ranking. To play on the PGA Tour for one year will cost you $110,000, not including your lodging and travel. You also have to take into account if you do not make the cut you leave with nothing. Also, you still have to pay your caddie that makes about 1,200 for the week, and the tournament entry fee. If you play on the Nationwide Tour you are looking at $75,000 for the year not including personal accommodations ( entry fee, caddie fees, and travel, lodging fees).
In my humble opinion, the one thing about the PGA, they are about their money first. If you have the means of paying just make sure you are good because if you aren’t, you will lose everything for free, unless you're cool with paying for the overall experience. My question is, how will this system attract minorities being as though golf does not have the glamour of football, basketball, and baseball? There is also the issue of having the finical support (sponsor) so you can pursue becoming a pro-golfer. Golf is not cheap! Golf is actually VERY expensive to the average America. The PGA is about money and if you have it and think you can play, pursue it. If you don’t have disposable income, beware. With increasing prices and the sport not being able to provide instant gratification, it’s going to be hard to attract minorities. I just don’t see golf being attractive enough to minorities, not unless you have family members that are passionate. The perfect example is Tiger Woods growing up with his dad at a young age, like most top 50 golfers playing today. They had family support emotionally and financially. You have to really invest in golf along with really loving the sport, the lifestyle of the sport, and lastly, you have to be good. Keep in mind; if you have what it takes, golf is a very lucrative sport that you can play for a lifetime. But once again, will golf ever see another Mr. Tiger Woods, or see another high profile minority golfer that is just as competitive? We might be waiting another decade or so, if not longer. I’m just saying…
Roger Hill, Golf Player and Lover of the Sport