Missing the Cut

Sport (n.):  An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature (Oftentimes sports come in the form of a game).

Being a former athlete, I would go so far as to say that sports are one of the greatest creations of mankind. They allow people, no matter what age, race, sex, or background to engage and compete on an equal stage. Some are gifted and possess great natural talent, while others have to work extremely hard just to stay competitive. Whatever the situation, in sports, each person has potential and creates their own luck. Even if you are not playing competitively, sports can offer a great form of recreation, an expressive outlet, or simply help to release the frustrations of everyday life. The places sports can take you have made them a hit with minorities in America. Minority kids and adults participate in leagues around the country, flocking to local recreation centers, fields, and other athletic facilities to participate in their favorite sport. As children, the most skilled athletes flood our minds, and take over the white space above our beds.

These professional athletes, representing every sport, serve as role models in minority communities. Basketball has Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, football has Adrian Peterson (as well as Cam Newton, Mike Vick), soccer has Freddy Adu (and Christiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi), baseball has Derrick Jeter and David Ortiz, boxing has Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, tennis has the Williams sisters, golf has Tiger Woods, and the list goes on. As they triumph over the competition on the most superior stages in the world, each of them act as heroes to their respective ethnicities. Minority children want to be like these superstars and emulate their every action. Since the 1940’s when sports (and the nation) began to embrace desegregation, the rate of minority participation in sports has steadily increased. Several professional leagues, including the National Basketball Association and the National Football League, have seen minorities become the largest participating percentage. Golf, on the other hand, hasn’t made the same progression since their integration in 1959. Even with Tiger, arguably the most dominant golfer of all time, the minority golf participation continues to lag behind the other major sports, with a minority population of less than 2 percent and 85 percent of Blacks saying they’ve never played a round of golf. Golf is huge in other countries and with other nationalities but clearly, minorities in the U.S. are consistently shying away from the sport. Why is this? First off, golf isn’t one of those popularized sports marketed to minorities in today’s popular media outlets. You never see golfers at the BET or MTV awards. Hip Hop culture doesn’t promote driving a ball 300 yards or sinking a putt. Maybe its just not exciting enough, or maybe because there isn’t as much athletic ability involved, it doesn’t intrigue us. We don’t see golfers with huge publicized endorsement deals and captivating commercials (excluding Tiger, previous to the adultery scandals). Even on ESPN, though we may view highlights of golfers nailing extremely talented shots on the top ten, we never hear about golf contract disputes or player association conflicts. Minorities in America, in my opinion, don’t even view golf as a lucrative sport. It’s a risky bet, considering it can take years to qualify for the PGA Tour, years that are only supported on your own dollar. In actuality, Tiger Woods was the highest paid professional athlete for over 5 consecutive years during the mid 2000’s. The winner of the 2011 US Open Golf Championship won 1.44 million…that is a pretty decent payday for just a weekends worth of golf.

Like I mentioned, golf is not cheap. Unlike basketball and football, where anyone can go to a recreation center or field and virtually play for free, and several players can play with one ball, every aspect of golf has a cost attached. Clubs, tees, and balls all cost money, and around every dog-leg there are wooded areas that don’t take kindly to those of us who can’t seem to find the fairway. A decent round of golf starts at $25 and only goes up depending on the course, what day and time you play, and if you decide to walk the course or ride. Even practicing costs money. To simply hit 50 balls at a driving range is going to run you at least $8-10. Add all of these costs together along with the other economic problems we continue to have, and it is easy to see why the majority of minorities in this country are not playing. The finances involved with being able to participate act as a hurdle, deliberate or otherwise, that keeps minorities from pursuing the game.

For minorities to grow in anything the seed has to be planted at a young age. Our children are not being exposed to the sport of golf. Yes, this may be attributable to the financial burden of this sport on American minorities that are already crippled by economic troubles. Minorities generally do not live in the immaculate houses that line the more upscale courses and don’t have the easiest access to them. For these reasons, the future outlook of golf, looks much the same as it does today. Unfortunately, our children will not grow up being familiar with the sport that requires extreme mental focus and capacity. Possibly one day, when financial stability is more evident in the minority community (a day we haven’t seen yet) then we will collectively brave the 18 holed adventure…maybe.

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