Sunday, July 3, 2016

Minority Collegiate Golf Championship Is Growing the Game

MIAMI,  Florida -- The PGA Tour remains exceedingly white, and I'm not talking about the ice-cream-man pants favored by many of the lodge brothers these days. The players and their caddies, the broadcasters and their bosses, officials and reporters and fans—it's a sea of white. The Tour—and you could say the same of the USGA and the PGA of America—looks nothing like the broad rush of humanity scurrying through the Orlando airport during spring break. It looks like 1958.

And then I paid a short visit to the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship in early May, a 30-year-old event that has been run by the PGA of America since 2006. What a joy, to walk the flat fairways of the PGA Golf Club, in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and see scores of young black, white, Asian and Latino golfers carrying their own bags and grinding out pars. Maybe it's because I spend too much time at Tour events and private clubs, but it just felt good to ask an African American woman—a coach in a cart, visor on, ready for action—directions to the 10th tee. It felt like progress.

The championship gives young minority golfers, most of them good but not great, a national competition in which to play. If that makes it an affirmative-action tournament, so be it.

For the purposes of the competition, the PGA of America identifies five minority groups: African American, Hispanic American, Native or Alaskan American, Asian or Pacific Island American and Middle Eastern/North African. Of the 145 players, men and women, in the field this year, roughly 60 percent of them fell into one of those five groups. Most of the rest were white kids playing for golf teams at historically black colleges and universities. There are also two individual competitions for minority male and female golfers from non-HBCU teams.

It's not an easy event to get your arms around. The minority classifications are really part of an accounting exercise that justifies the use of the word "minority" in the championship name. This year, Bethune-Cookman, an historically black university in Daytona Beach, won both the men's Division I team title and the women's team title. Of the 10 Bethune-Cookman players, only three were members of PGA-sanctioned minority groups. But three others were self-described mixed-race Britons for whom there was no box to check, except other.


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