Why Tiger Woods is the Only Black Golfer on the PGA Tour

By Guest Columnist Apr 29, 2007

"African-Americans not progressing 10 years after Masters breakthrough," MSNBC reported April 1. The story continued:

“It’s a travesty, no doubt about it,” said Pete McDaniel, a black author and journalist who has chronicled the history of blacks in golf. “We’ve got a $60 billion-a-year industry. That’s a pretty big pie. Here it is in 2007 and we don’t get a sliver of the pie. We get table scraps.” Woods on his own has engendered a surge in popularity that has led to about a threefold increase in prize money, which derives mainly from more lucrative TV and sponsorship deals. But it has yet to trickle down. It hasn’t even led to any other black playing regularly on the PGA Tour.

Here’s my theory: Until America fixes its inequity in income distribution, it’s likely that all Black golfers in the PGA will have the last name Woods. The reason more Blacks don’t play golf professionally is simple: The overwhelming majority of Black Americans can not afford to practice golf and therefore do not gain a competitive edge in golf. Becoming a professional golfer, not a weekend warrior, is no game. To play, both golf amateurs and professionals have to pay. They have to buy their own equipment and a whole set of clubs can range from $300 to thousands of dollars. Unlike other other popular sports like football and basketball, coaches and adequate facilities are difficult to find. In addition, high schools, middle schools and even grade schools offer free or low cost equipment and free coaching to children who want to play competitively in football and basketball. Uniforms, and coaches and football equipment are expensive, but basketball and football tend to pay for themselves at the high school level because of boosters clubs and attendance receipts. And when they don’t, schools and school districts are happy to cut their music and arts programs to pay the difference. But if someone wanted to practice golf more than once a week, the initial cost of clubs might be doable, but the daily green fees at public golf courses would run in the thousands of dollars per year. Private courses could cost hundreds or even thousands per month depending on the location and quality of the course. Golf coaches, like personal trainers, can charge between $25 per class to $200 for a personal session bringing the annual grand golfing total to many thousands of dollars per year. And that’s just to practice. Then there’s the cost of travel. Both amateurs and professionals have to pay for their own travel to and from tournaments unless they have a sponsor. In addition, golf is a sport that is only played from sun up to sundown. There are no stadium lights or indoor gyms to light the way on America’s golf courses. If you want to play professionally, you can kiss your day job goodbye. Because of all of these expenses, financially struggling schools rarely will field a golf team and schools that do have a team generally field fewer than twenty students which excludes a huge segment of the population, especially people of color. And the kicker is that professional golfers only get paid if they win, amateurs don’t get paid at all. Like I said, you have to be able to pay to play and only those with a lot of disposable income get to play and white Americans tend to have more of that, a lot more of that than anyone else. Black Americans tend to have less, a lot less than anyone else. . Now imagine what the National Football League would look like if the players were treated like golfers. What if high school players had to pay the $300 for the helmet, shoulder pads and uniforms, and buses and stadiums and medical insurance that schools pay for now? What if they had to pay for the high school and college football coaching staff directly and pay by the hour? What if the players for the New Orleans Saints had to rent the Louisiana Superdome eight Sundays a year or charter the jets to the next NFL city? What if the players only got paid if they won? Who would play football? Would Black players still dominate NFL rosters? I don’t think so.