All-black H.S. team's success highlights golf's problem with diversity
Decades after Tiger Woods, black representation in golf is still an issue. That's why many were inspired when Drew Charter School in Atlanta won the Georgia state championship.
The Charles R. Drew Charter School boys golf team made history in May when it became the first all-black high school team — and the first team from the Atlanta public school system — to win the Georgia state championship.
For a sport that has always been overwhelmingly white, that’s a big deal. The milestone even drew the attention of Harold Varner III, one of three African Americans on the PGA tour, whose foundation donated $5,000 to the team’s program.
“I think it was very significant for them to win,” Nyre Williams, one of the team’s coaches and the founder of the golf program at Drew Charter, told NBC. “It gives young African Americans a chance to see that, hey, this can be done.”
Golf has been much slower than most sports to diversify. But some experts say the Drew Charter team’s victory represents the best solution to the challenge of making the costly, overwhelmingly white game more appealing and accessible to African American players.
“No other teams looked like us,” said Solomon Dobbs, who was a senior on the championship team and graduated in the spring, adding that they were “pretty much” the only black golfers there.
That’s not surprising. According to the National Golf Foundation, only 3 percent of recreational golfers are African American — and that drops to 1.5 percent when it comes to competitive golfers. While the PGA tour has three African American, the Ladies PGA tour has just one member.
James Beatty, executive editor of African American Golfer’s Digest, said that while there are ongoing efforts to increase diversity in golf, much more needs to be done.
“More than I think any other sport, golf has historically been dominated by white players,” he said. “The golf industry has been slow, in my mind, to invite people of color, especially African Americans, into the economic mainstream of the sport.”