Golf Course Management

MAR 2017

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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56 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 03.17 Achieving inclusion and diversity in golf means numerous entities need to step up — and do it soon and in emphatic ways — says Michael Cooper, Ph.D., an adjunct faculty member in the School of Human Services at Springfield College Tampa Bay. "The data says that golf is in dire need of more diversity. We've seen ebbs and flows in participation for quite a number of years," says Cooper, who once worked for The First Tee and serves on the Golf 20/20 Diversity Task Force, as does Kirby. National Golf Foundation statistics show that 4.7 million non-Caucasians (African- Americans, Asian-Americans and Hispanics) age 6 and over played at least one round of golf in 2015, down from 5.4 million in 2011. Over - all, 24.1 million people age 6 and up played at least one round in 2015, a decrease from 25.7 million six years ago. Finding ways to change those trends is imperative, says Cooper, and there are posi - tive signs: PGA Junior League Golf totaled 36,000 participants nationwide in 2016, a 300 percent increase from three years ear - lier. The USGA reports its girls' and women's championships continue to see year-over-year gains in entries. "With the way golf has had some struggles economically, it needs some immediate wins to really win the battle," Cooper says. "Pro - grams like Craig's are bringing in people now. We need to identify and locate programs like Craig's, and there are hundreds of them. They have nuances that make them different, but have the same idea — working with minorities and bringing people into the game. "If the golf industry would band together and partner with these grassroots organiza - tions, it (inclusion and diversity) would hap- pen quicker. I am optimistic we can shift the demographics. If that happens, golf wins. Ev - erybody wins." World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona views Kirby as an ally who's making a differ - ence. "He's an example of somebody out in the field doing something directly to create diver - sity in the game, and that's not easy to do," Mona says. Covering all the bases At Marlton, Kirby enrolls about 80 youths in 12-week classes. In those classes, partici - pants learn everything from how to putt to what goes on in the pro shop to how soil ero - sion is tackled. The fact that the facility has African- American owners is critical. "To be able to bring them to a place where the owners look like them is really powerful," says Kirby. "It takes away the intimidation. To be able to give them a level of comfort and see that these people who look like them care about their growth is wonderful." Kirby says more than 300 youths have participated. Still, it hasn't been easy at Marlton. Al - though it has received two six-figure bonds from the state and county to expand golf op - erations and has also partnered with the Uni- versity of Maryland-Eastern Shore to be its af- filiated golf course (the university offers a golf management program), financial obstacles have tested ownership. Fulfillment of wages owed to current and former employees and vendors is being addressed, says Garvin, who adds, "Our goal is to make everybody whole." As Marlton and the entire golf industry continues to pursue inclusion and diversity, it probably doesn't hurt that they have Ever - ett Pearson on their side. In Maryland, they know him as Rev. Everett Pearson. The pas - tor at Mount Calvary Catholic Church in Forestville, Md., Pearson has parishioners who partake in the "Golf. My Future. My Game." program at Marlton, and he approves of what's being preached there. "I've seen the kids' smiles — those big, toothy grins," Pear - son says. "What they are doing there is a great idea. They are showing that anything is pos - sible if you put your heart and soul into it." Howard Richman (hrichman@gcsaa.org) is GCM 's asso- ciate editor. Individual attention to youth golfers is part of the program "Golf. My Future. My Game." and Marlton GC is a key training ground. Photo courtesy of Craig Kirby "What they are doing (at Marlton) is a great idea. They are showing that anything is possible if you put your heart and soul into it." — Rev. Everett Pearson

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