When the boys’ golf team at Charles Drew Charter School in Atlanta, Georgia came fourth at the state championships last year, members of the team were not impressed.
Thus, they came back stronger this year, and in May, the golf team became the first Atlanta public school to win a state championship in Georgia. Not only did the boys win, but the team also created history in a different way – the students, including coaching staff, became the first all-black golf team to do so.
The team had a statement victory, outscoring the two-time defending state champions by over 15 strokes.
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“At the beginning, I didn’t really have the belief in us, but as a team, we started to grow a lot,” freshman Miles Richardson said.
The win became the latest achievement for The First Tee of East Lake, a golf instruction and mentoring program which is managed through the East Lake Foundation.
According to Atlanta Business Chronicle, over the last two decades, the foundation has, with the help of partners and donors, transformed the East Lake neighbourhood with some community-building initiatives, like The First Tee of East Lake, which all the boys of the golf team at Drew Charter belong to.
Solomon Dobbs, a senior who helped Drew Charter to gain the historic win this year, is part of participants who have achieved greater heights in athletics and academics within The First Tee programme.
“I’ve been able to play junior golf with the top-50 juniors in the world, at the most prestigious golf courses in the world. All these opportunities couldn’t have happened without The First Tee,” said Dobbs, who was first introduced to golf as a second-grader at Drew Charter School.
Golf has had difficulties with diversity among its ranks for years. American golfers are 77 per cent male and 80 per cent white, according to a recent Golf Diversity & Inclusion Report. Among professional golfers, 75 per cent are male and 86 per cent are white. This creates the thinking that black boys wouldn’t want to play golf.
But such thoughts are changing, thanks to the likes of Drew Charter. Opening in 2000, the school ensures that each student try their hand at golf and for years, the school has produced so many players who, unfortunately, had to pursue their careers at different high schools since Drew Carter only served from pre-K to eighth grade, the Atlanta Business Chronicle report said.
This changed in 2014 when the school opened its Senior Academy, giving way for the boys’ first varsity season in 2017 that would eventually make history for the school on May 21, 2019.
The historic victory was also possible thanks to retired professional, Nyre Williams, who serves as the director of The First Tee of East Lake Foundation in Atlanta.
Williams, who coached the team to its first title, told Blavity recently that one of his major highlights during his time mentoring the boys “would be the capacity to teach these men things they wouldn’t have an opportunity to learn outside of the game. This platform has allowed them to recognize their worth and aspire to goals they wouldn’t have otherwise thought of accomplishing.”
“Golf has granted our athletes access to unique opportunities. For example, there are scholarships available to play junior golf at some of the top institutions in Atlanta. Those who benefit from those grants then travel across the country to different and competitive golf academies,” he said while urging young Black men who are interested in pursuing golf to start enrolling in junior programmes geared toward black people and minorities.
He further touched on why it is significant for more Black boys and men to enter the sport.
“Golf is a sport that anyone can play regardless of skills. Don’t have to be quick like track, tall like basketball or big like football. Unlike the aforementioned sports that may come with a short playing span, you can play golf for life.”
Even though the boys from Drew Charter became state champions, they did not end there but went further to compete for a national title in Orlando. There, the team finished in 20th place in the team competition.
Although things did not go as they wished, the team, according to wearegolf.org “gained valuable experience from the high-level competition and have their sights set on getting back on the national stage in 2020.”