Irish Golfer Magazine (Monthly Print)

December 2019

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BACK 9: ADVERSITY STILL IN DIVERSITY US Golf Diversity & Inclusion Report estimated that American golfers were 77% male and 80% white, and, amongst all club, teaching and competing professionals, 75% are male and 86% white), out of a total of 27.1 million golfers nationwide, only 5.2 million are from ethnic minorities and just 1.4million, a fraction over 5%, of those are African American. It is argued that golf, unlike, for example, basketball or track- and-field is neither culturally or physically in tune with aspiring young black men and women, which is not only a gross simplification, but also a tired and defective stereotype. Other traditional, 'Middle class,' sports such as tennis and rugby union have reached- out and had barriers – real and perceived – kicked down by the likes of the Williams sisters, whilst indigenous, ethnic minorities, such as Aboriginals, South Sea Islanders and Maoris have, through the very force of their physicality and skill, set the gold standard for both codes of rugby. But, as society and its diversity develops, as the human condition is both exposed and enhanced by a more enlightened approach, as barriers are broken down, and, in the main, rank intolerance eroded by improved education, international travel, increasing (for many, if not all) affluence, surely it is not beyond the wit of man – or woman - to get more minorities in general, and those of African American origin in particular, attracted to and integrated into one of the greatest sporting and social sports on earth. But after one of the greatest golfers of our time could, and should have inspired millions of all ethnicities to at least give golf a go, the Royal and Ancient game stands on the brink of being charged with squandering one of the most bountiful legacies of any contemporary sport. Still, today, the number of women of colour playing on the LPGA circuit can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Meantime, unless Tiger Woods himself can get - and stay - tournament-fit and ratchet- up his game, and his world ranking by multiple notches, the prospects of seeing a black golfer – male or female – at next year's Olympics in Tokyo are, at best, remote. In the professional game, perhaps the cause for greatest optimism should – and indeed is – to be found on South Africa's Sunshine Tour, where, despite a shocking start under the hated apartheid era between 1948 and 1994, when sanctions were routinely broken by big-money tournaments staged at the so- called, 'white man's playground,' of Sun City, genuine progress appears to be being made. Thanks to initiatives like the Gary Player Class of 2018 / 19, which offers playing and development opportunities to 21 men from ethnic minorities, half- a-dozen black players are now in the top-50 of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, led by veteran James Kamte and the upcoming Toto Thimba Jnr. But the highest-earning 'golfer' in South Africa remains caddie Zack Rasego, himself a decent young player who emerged from the Soweto township to earn millions-of- dollars on the bag for big name, big money, all-white players including Brandon Grace and 2010 Open Championship winner, Louis Oosthuizen. Magical Kenya Open, staged by the European Tour in Nairobi in March offered places in the main draw for 14 indigenous players, two of whom made the cut with one, Simon Ngige Mburu finishing a creditable 25th, earning himself US$12,000 and even more valuable tournament experience. However, and the number of players of colour competing professionally around the world must be seen as somewhere between an oddity and a disgrace, it's hardly surprising, given that recreational golf introduction and participation levels and club membership, where the golf 'journey' invariably begins, are in an equally parlous state. Whilst global governing bodies, the R&A, USGA and IGF talk glibly about the importance of diversity, spending a small fortune on research projects and campaigns to – quite rightly - attract more youngsters, females and disabled people into the game, these organisations, all largely pale, male and stale have failed, and continue to fail to even address, let alone progress access for people of African American heritage. In the US, golf's biggest market, based on statistics published by the National Golf Foundation in 2010 (by 2015, the Meantime, unless Tiger Woods himself can get - and stay - tournament-fit and ratchet-up his game, and his world ranking by multiple notches, the prospects of seeing a black golfer – male or female – at next year's Olympics in Tokyo are, at best, remote Tiger Woods 76 / www.IrishGolfer.ie / December 2019

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