Four Black golfers compete in Cambia Portland Classic
For the first time in its sixty-six year history, the LPGA has four black women on tour. There hasn’t been this much black golf history since 1964 when Althea Gibson became the first Black woman to play on the LPGA Tour. Yet, no one said a word about it.
There are several factors that contribute to why we don’t see more Black golfers, male or female, playing on the LPGA and PGA Tours. The culture of the sport contributes a great deal, but the other primary factors include cost, access, and awareness.
Golf is not a sport that Black families have traditionally supported with their dollars. Little league basketball and football teams are usually the go-to for Black families. Although an athlete can play golf for lifetime, it is not a sport we have embraced – but it hasn’t really embraced us either. The industry as a whole holds on to the fact that golf is meritorious. If you can play, the opportunities are there. That’s only half-true. A young golfer doesn’t have to spend his lunch money or bus fare to practice basketball, or football. To get to the elite levels of this game, it is tremendously expensive. The cost of equipment, coaches, range time, rounds, tournament entry fees, lodging and travel can eat into a family’s budget. Without sponsor dollars, it is difficult for golfers to continue at the professional level. THAT is what makes having four Black women playing professionally so momentous for the game.
However, the coverage on Golf Channel neglected to note the historical significance of having a cohort of four Black women on the tour. We won’t wait for them to say it, we’ll keep reminding everyone that the game should reflect the society in which we live.
While I have several favorite female golfers playing on the tour, I pay special attention to those who look like me, and so will other black golfers. Both Cheyenne Woods and Mariah Stackhouse made the cut to compete during the final rounds. Cheyenne finished tied for sixth place, and Mariah Stackhouse made a great showing tied for 47th place.
College standout and Stanford grad, Mariah Steakhouse, is making her professional debut at the Portland Classic this week. She recently signed with KPMG as a brand ambassador. Even though she’s just barely out of college, she’s already achieved so much in her golf career. In 2011, at the age of 17, she became the youngest Black woman to earn a spot in the field at the U.S. Open. In 2014, she became the first Black woman to make the Curtis Cup team, which the United States won that year. We are looking forward to many more firsts from Mariah.
Cheyenne Woods is a familiar name in golf. She plays in the very large shadow of her famous uncle, Tiger Woods. However, Cheyenne is making a mark of her own. In 2009, she received a sponsor exemption to compete in an LPGA tournament where she missed the cut by four strokes. Fast forward three years where in 2012, after graduating from Wake Forest, Cheyenne went pro. That same year she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, where she made her professional debut at the LPGA Championship. In 2014, Woods had her second professional win (and first on a major tour) at the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters. Cheyenne Woods is the sixth Black woman to play on the LPGA Tour.
Sadden Parks is as strong as she is beautiful. You can see proof of that in her 2015 spread in ESPN’s Body issue. You may also recognize her from her appearance on the golf reality show Big Break Florida. Parks is only the fifth Black golfer to join the ranks of her white counterparts on the LPGA and the first African American woman to earn her LPGA Tour card through the Symetra Tour.
Ginger Howard made a name for herself when, at 17, she became the youngest Black golfer in the world to go pro. In 2012, she became the first Black golfer to earn a spot in the 2010 U.S Junior Ryder Cup. In 2016, Ginger earned her place on the LPGA Tour after completing Q school. She became the seventh Black woman to play on the LPGA Tour.