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Pigamingi: In golf, black lives matter, and should matter

Last updated 2 months ago | By Mike The Pro Kibunja

Black Lives Matter is a decentralised political and social movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people. [Photo: Courtesy]

It was a monumental turning point in History in 2009 when Barrack Obama became the first person of colour, Black, an African-American President.

With the nomination of Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate in the November 2020 US presidential election, another turning point I history is about to happen again.

This time around, it will be double pronged. First, Harris is a woman. There has never been a female US Vice President. Two, she is person of colour.

Now, juxtapose those positive progressive changes with the events in Michigan State that resulted in the murder of George Floyd that once again confirmed that racism is alive.

Those of us who have not had a chance to step out of our country and into countries that are openly and blatantly racist may not appreciate what racism really is.

But they might probably relate to our colonial past, the apartheid in South Africa during the days, or the slavery in the American South.

What is of concern today is the genre of racism that rears its ugly head unexpectedly, and even worse is when the actors have no idea that whatever they are doing is inherently wrong and unacceptable today.

Recently, videos have been making rounds on social media exposing and calling out Karens, the new name for white women who have been blatantly displaying the perceived superiority of white privilege.

The most outrageous one of such a Karen happened in Gotham City, where a woman of Eastern Europe origin who walked over and ordered a woman of color to vacate the seat in a park where she had been resting.

Of course, the black woman did not budge. Instead, she turned on the video recorder on her phone and became a modern day Spike Lee.

As she was recording, The Karen called cops on the black woman and lied that she had attacked her and her child. Interestingly she also accused her of playing her black card.

Her sense of white superiority and white entitlement really gushed out for all to see when he demanded that the black woman to accompany her to the cop station! The cheek!

The Cops and Karen’s husband did turn up. Upon realizing the ugliness of the situation, the husband walked away disgusted. The cops took a look at the heavily pregnant Karen and also walked away, probably excusing her action on a hormonal imbalance. Her actions simply did not make sense.

Cheyenne Woods. [Photo: Courtesy]

When subjected to such open racism, one should stand their ground. But it is the insidious hidden racism that can catch you unawares and surprise you.

There first time this happened to me in NYC when I walked into a specialist music equipment shop. Two white shop assistants came straight at me and inquired how they could help me.

I was flattered by their attention, but felt very uncomfortable browsing around the shop with them shadowing my every step.

Interestingly, their interest disappeared as soon as I opened my mouth and my Kenyan-Kikuyu accented English came out. I would later learn that I was not the kind of black customer they were wary of.  Gratifying but annoying.

The second time was at a PGA Tour event. One company was marketing swing capture and analysis software and was offering a free service. I was not averse to a golf freebie, and since I had never seen a video of my swing, I lined up to be assessed.

When it was my turn, the equipment suddenly acquired a glitch. I guess I was expected to leave, but instead I decided to play the fools game and told the operator I would wait for them to fix it!

And I did. Once it was fixed, I took several swings and then insisted on discussing solutions to my out-to-in downswing that was causing me a slice.

That is how you handle such under-the-radar racism. Stand your ground. You have a right to be on this earth, as written in Desiderata.

With regard to the ongoing BLM movement started after Floyd’s demise, it was poignant that the greatest golfer of all times, Tiger Woods, made a statement condemning the perpetrators.

But some people felt his statement was not strong enough compared to the ones by Formula 1’s Hamilton and legendary Basketballer Michael Jordan.

We can only guess that this was primarily because as a teen prodigy, Tiger Woods endured sickening racism and was blatantly mistreated at the Navy golf club in Cypress California.

When Tiger first played the course, a manager stepped in to block him, citing a rule that he had to be over 10, despite the schoolboy already being named the World Junior Champion.

According to Joe Grohman, his mentor, when Tiger was 15, his mother Kultida wanted to celebrate his second US junior title and brought a tray of pasta into the clubhouse for her son, Grohman and some other pals to eat.

However, they were asked to leave and sit outside on seats covered in bird droppings.

Then at 16, the manager sent Tiger a letter telling him he would have to produce a receipt for his rounds and range balls due to 'numerous complaints from the men's and ladies club' that he wasn't paying for them.

This was despite the fact that it had long been quietly accepted that Grohman would give them to him for free, so the world's best young golfer could practice constantly.

When Tiger was 18 and had just won the US Amateur Championship, a retired marine colonel falsely accused Tiger of hitting golf balls into houses from the course and threw him out.

A week later, Tiger phoned the manager and asked if he wanted to display the Amateur trophy at the club. But the young star was again snubbed. Two weeks later, Tiger went off to Stanford University and he has not returned to that course.

Despite all that, Tiger has very strategically avoided being branded with a particular color. He describes himself as Cablinasian, meaning a Masala mix of Caucasian, black, (American) Indian and Asian. Thai, American Indian and African American blood.

We also know where he is coming from after losing lucrative contracts post his sex scandal. He is therefore very careful with words, hence his mild statement.

The most recent anti-racism action in golf came from the President of the PGA, Suzy Whaley on July 2, 2020. Are you surprised that a woman is heading the PGA, an organization of men golfers? You should not be.

Since Martha Burke’s protest in 2003 at the Masters Championship in Augusta, Golf has slowly been working at crossing the gender gap and race gap, in both directions.

Ty Votaw, a man, served as LPGA’s Commissioner from 1999 to 2005. More recent action was by Suzy Whaley.

Most golfers remember Suzy Whaley as the woman golfer who qualified for a men’s PGA Tour event and took on the men from the back Tees in 2002, echoing similar action by Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie.

Suzy had qualified for the 2003 Greater Hartford Open after winning the 2002 Connecticut PGA Championship. She is now the President of the PGA of America, despite being a woman!

In June this year, under her leadership, The PGA of America Board of Directors voted to rename the Horton Smith Award effective immediately.

Smith was a two-time Masters Champion, including the inaugural tournament, who served as PGA President from 1952-54.

He was a staunch defender of the “Caucasian-only” membership clause, which, according to the PGA of America later, “was regrettably included in the PGA Bylaws from 1934-61.”

The award now will be called the PGA Professional Development Award, honoring a PGA Member for outstanding contributions to professional education.

In her words, “In renaming the Horton Smith Award, the PGA of America is taking ownership of a failed chapter in our history that resulted in excluding many from achieving their dreams of earning the coveted PGA Member badge and advancing the game of golf,” .

PGA President Suzy Whaley said. “We need to do all we can to ensure the PGA of America is defined by inclusion. Part of our mission to grow the game is about welcoming all and bringing diversity to the sport”.

We still do not have enough golfers of color on the US PGA Tour. You could count them on one hand: Tiger Woods and Harold Varner III.  Add in Fijian Vijay Singh, who describes himself as black due to his skin tone, and Tony Finau.

American-born Kenyan golfer Steve Kibare. [Photo: Courtesy]

African golfers are glaringly missing from the US and PGA Tours. Zambian Madalitso Muthiya qualified for the 2005 US Open but did not earn a Tour card.

South Africa’s Kamte, the Cobra, earned the Tour card for the 2008 European Tour season by finishing in the top 30 of the qualifying school.

The Women’s side is not doing any better. Maria Stackhouse is the only black full-time US LPGA player. Stackhouse is a graduate of Stanford University, like Tiger Woods, where she was four-year All-American.

She is a real phenome.  In 2011, at the age of 17, she became the youngest African American woman to qualify for the U.S. Open, and was also the first African American woman to qualify for the Curtis Cup team in 2014.

Of course, there is also Cheyenne Woods, Tiger’s niece, who Kenyans had a chance to watch at the inaugural Magical Kenya Open last year at Vipingo. We hope she is coming over again this year.

Until 1990, only two African American women had ever qualified for the US LPGA Tour; Althea Gibson and Renee Powell. Then came LaRee Sugg in 1995.

Currently there are five of them on the LPGA Tour; Shasta Averyhardt, Cheyenne Woods, Sadena Parks, Ginger Howard and Mariah Stackhouse. None of them is from an African Country.

It’s time African Country golf Unions made a mark by placing Africans on the four main golf tours. Because not just in athletics: in golf, Black Lives Matter.

LipOuts: The Coronavirus continues wrecking Tour Golf. We should not take anything for granted and once again urge golfers to continue observing the prescribed anti-Covid protocols.

There shall be no British Open this year. In the US LPGA Tour’s first event in August, the Drive On Championship, Marina Alex and Gaby Lopez tested positive for COVID-19 and could not start. 

At the Marathon LPGA Classic, Perrine Delacour’s Caddy tested positive and Perrine had to withdraw. Symetra Tour player Fatima Fernandez Cano also tested positive. [email protected],@pigamingi1.  

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