Some HBCUs struggle to find black golfers and end up fielding teams with white players, and the programs are among the first to get targeted during budget crunches.
“It’s not football or basketball generating dollars, and they don’t want to go out and spend money and actually have to go out and raise money for golf,” said Bowen, who used to coach golf at Chicago State and Benedict College in South Carolina, which are both HBCUs.
Many believed that Woods’ barrier-shattering ascent that started with his historic 1997 win at the Masters — at a club that once banned black golfers — would usher in a new generation of African American players on the PGA Tour.
But those projections didn’t materialize, in part because of the deep challenges that young African Americans still face when it comes to taking up a sport that requires considerable expense and travel to play at a high level.
“A lot of my golf organizations and clubs are really being challenged in attracting young people,” said Debert Cook, publisher of the African American Golfer’s Digest.
Curry, who has long been known as a passionate golfer, made the announcement about his Howard donation at Langston Golf Course, one of the few U.S. golf courses to allow African Americans when it opened in 1939. The course was home to the Royal Golf Club and the Wake Robin Golf Club, the nation’s first for African American men and women.
African Americans made steady progress in golf after Langston Golf Course was built, culminating with Woods’ domination of the sport in the early 2000s.
In 1964, Althea Gibson, a tennis pioneer who also played golf professionally, became the first black woman to play in the LPGA Tour. And Charlie Sifford joined the PGA Tour in 1961 after years of the organization’s whites-only clause that kept out golfers of color.
Andrews said young golfers still have to fight the perception that it’s “a white man’s” sport. He hopes that a resurgence of HBCU golf will help bring more African American youth into the sport.
Golf is a great way to teach discipline and perseverance, he said, as well as an avenue into the corporate world for students who may not otherwise have a way in.
“We use golf, but the real teaching is about life,” Andrews said.