After a recession, HBCU Golf is back on the rise — but the hard work isn’t over yet

Oct, 2022

In recent years, historically black university and college athletics have been more common due to the work of Deion Sanders, an NFL legend and his involvement with Jackson State’s football program. Howard has demonstrated in just two years how hard it is possible to achieve with the help of resources and opportunities.

A Black Golf Directory listing shows that 31 HBCUs offer golf programs in NCAA Divisions I, II, and NAIA. Eleven schools offer both men’s or women’s programs, while 19 have only men’s teams. Delaware State has the only women’s team.

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“I would double that amount. Jamila Johnson, a member of the Black College Golf Coaches Association (BCGCA), stated that there was at least twice as many HBCUs offering golf programs back in the 90s. The popularity of HBCUs is growing despite a decade-long recession that saw many programs disappear. These positive changes must now be a movement and not a single moment.

Selina Johnson, Johnson’s mother, founded The Hollywood Golf Institute when Johnson was six years old. This program is a junior golf program that she started in her hometown of Detroit, Michigan. When she was high school, she played on and was the captain of a coed team. She was then the first female recruit for Jackson State’s women’s team by Eddie Payton in the 1990s, during Title IX’s second wave. The law, which prohibits discrimination in schools or programs that receive federal funding based upon sex, was enforced by the government in 1990. Many colleges took this route to correct the inequality, including HBCUs.

Every SWAC school had a women’s and men’s team back then. Today, seven out of 12 member schools have either men’s or ladies’ teams, while only three schools have both.

Johnson stated that there were many HBCUs with teams. Even though they weren’t always welcome to play at the local facilities, Johnson said. We have not yet recovered the number of teams we had but I can tell you that the quality and experience of these events, as well as the venues and experiences we offer, is trending in an amazing direction. While we played some nice courses, this generation of golfers, and HBCU golfers are having better opportunities to play at better venues. They’re also having the chance to see the possibilities for their future careers.

Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte, North Carolina hosted the Charlie Sifford centennial cup earlier this year. It featured six of the best HBCU programs. Howard’s head coach Sam Puryear spoke out about the importance of HBCU golf programs developing and supporting black talent.

Puryear stated, “Programs must be set and structured in a systematic and schematic manner as it relates practice, types, leadership, management, running the programs and putting in place the various things that will make them successful.” It is possible to create more competitive schedules if you do this. Iron sharpens iron, it’s the old proverb. That is what I believe will happen at the end.

“I believe that HBCU golf needs to be driven forward, we need to show the kids what the do, where we play and give them more information,” stated Howard senior Everett Whiten Jr.

The Hollywood Golf Institute introduced more than 6,000 children to golf. They sent nearly 350 students to school on partial or full scholarships. 41 years later, the program continues to produce talented golfers. BCGCA has established tournaments in different regions across the country to make it easier for schools not to have to travel far for tournaments. Opportunities to play are valuable, but they only last so much.

Greg Odom Jr. said, “It’s about more opportunities and people actually being there throughout these opportunities like mentorships.”

Johnson was a proud supporter of the BCGCA’s partnership with high school coaches when it was founded 35 years ago. Johnson said that while it is important to develop players and talent, Johnson also suggested that supporting, empowering, and developing existing coaches is the next step.

Johnson stated that golf is a good investment for HBCUs and for people. Although it might have been a recession that saw some teams go, I believe we are now seeing a trend in which schools see the value of golf and are building these teams again. Teams are coming back to where they were before.

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