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Golden State Warriors basketball star Stephen Curry just announced his partnership with Howard University to create the school’s first NCAA Division 1 golf program. Curry will fund men’s and women’s teams for six years, including three scholarship positions. At the media day for the announcement, Curry teed off with administrators and students at Langston Golf Course, the first golf course for African Americans in the District.
We’ll hear about Howard’s golf program, the history of Langston Golf Course and a local organization that aims to make golf accessible to youth of color.
Produced by Cydney Grannan
KOJO NNAMDIYou tuned into The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome. Later in the broadcast we'll be talking with D.C. schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee. But first on Monday NBA Super Star Steph Curry joined Howard University for a big announcement. The Golden State Warriors point guard is helping Howard launch an NCAA Division 1 Golf Program. Joining me in the studio today to discuss this is Kerry Davis, Director of Athletics at Howard University. Kerry Davis, thank you for joining us.
KERRY DAVISHi, how are you Kojo?
NNAMDII'm well. Also with us is Elliot Williams. Elliot Williams is an Assistant Editor at Washingtonian. Elliot, thank you for joining us.
ELLIOT WILLIAMSThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd Clint Sanchez is the Executive Director of the First Tee of Greater Washington, D.C. Clint Sanchez, thank you for joining us.
CLINT SANCHEZThank you Kojo. Happy to be here.
NNAMDIKerry Davis, Steph Curry doesn't have an official ties to Washington, D.C. Why was he, a basketball player interested in starting an NCAA Division 1 Golf Program at Howard University?
DAVISWell, I guess there's two points of view. There's a micro view and a macro view. The micro view was it was initiated at a conversation with a young Howard student named Otis Ferguson. He met Steph at the premier of his documentary, Emanuel. And he got Steph's attention by saying, hey Steph, let's get in a round of golf. And knowing Steph was a passionate golfer they began talking about it. And Steph asked him, hey, do you play Division 1 Golf at Howard? And he said, no, Howard doesn't have a golf team. And that initial conversation begot all that happened this past week. The macro view is Steph wanted to create opportunities, more opportunities for minorities to be involved in golf. And he thought Howard was a great place to do that based on the brand of the school, the academic excellence, and the type of student athletes that we were producing.
NNAMDIYou know, we used to think that the mere popularity of Tiger Woods would encourage a lot more African-Americans to be involved with golf. But I guess if you don't have institutions and organizations to steer people in that direction, it is not quite that easy. Steph Curry's total donation will be somewhere in the seven figure range. It'll support both the men's and the women's team. I know it's in the early stages. But what can you share about what the golf program will look like, and what's the timeline for getting it off the ground?
DAVISSo we will begin actual competition in 2020. And it will be both a men's and women's team. This next year will be primarily looking to hire a coach, recruit student athletes, find someplace to play both for practice level and at a competitive level to play our home matches, if you will. So we have a lot of preparation to do before we launch in 2020.
NNAMDIElliot Williams to kick off his announcement Steph Curry played a round of golf with Howard administrators and students at Langston Golf Course. Langston has a special history in this region which you wrote about this month for the Washingtonian. Tell us about it.
WILLIAMSAbsolutely. So one of the most interesting things I learned as I was doing research about black golf in D.C. was that Langston was actually not technically not the first golf course opened to black golfers. The first was a few feet from the Lincoln Memorial, but to call it a golf course was very generous.
NNAMDIMore like a golf patch.
WILLIAMSExactly, it was one giant sand trap, if you will. So, you know, it was actually really difficult to play golf there, and especially without harassment. So, you know, black golfers in D.C. this was at the dawn of the golden age of golf, from 1909 to 1948. And black golfers were forming their own clubs, social clubs where they could get together and feel safe. And, you know, join together in golf. So they petitioned the government over a series of 10 years to open Langston Golf Course. So it's steeped in a history of pride and, you know, joining together for golf.
NNAMDIThe name of the golf course, Langston, also has a connection to Howard University. What is it?
WILLIAMSIt's named after John Mercer Langston, who was the first Dean of the Howard Law School, and the first black man to represent Virginia in Congress. So obviously the tie in now with Howard University is great timing.
NNAMDIAs a matter of fact when I think of Langston Golf Course in the early years when I was in Washington, I think of Lee Elder, the former PGA tour golfer, who managed Langston from I think about '78 to '81 and was closely associated with doing those years. Langston is one of three remaining public golf courses in the District. There's also the Rock Creek Golf Course and the East Potomac Golf Course. What do public golf courses offer that country clubs or private driving ranges don't?
WILLIAMSCertainly. So I know from an affordability standpoint they're wonderful. You can play a round of golf at Langston for instance for $30 in that range, right. I actually went to the driving range recently and, you know, you only pay for the balls that you use. So, you know, as opposed to paying for a membership at a country club. And just again, we were talking about the history of golf courses like Langston. You know, they've traditionally been open to people from the city, from the neighborhood. Langston is located very close to Langston Terrace, which was the first public housing in D.C. So you can imagine that people from the neighborhood are walking by going to watch basketball games at Spring High School. And then right across the street they're seeing Joe Lewis, they're seeing Mike Tyson, these celebrities stop by. It's exciting, and you get into golf that way.
NNAMDIWhen I played there my balls ended up in the arboretum, but that's a whole another story. Clint Sanchez, the First Tee of Greater Washington, D.C. offers youth golf programs throughout the region including at Langston. Tell us about the First Tee and what programs you offer.
SANCHEZRight. So the First Tee is a youth development organization that teaches golf skills and life skills to kids ages 7 to 18 in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Montgomery County, and starting this year in Prince George's County, Maryland. Langston is our regional program location. We were founded there in 1999. So it was the first program we had. We had 90 kids in an after school program there in 1999. And now across over 20 program locations we have 1700 kids in program. Langston remains a very vibrant place in our chapter, and it's our second largest program location. So we have Kojo, about 300 kids now each year will partake in programming at Langston right there on the golf course.
NNAMDIHandle them very carefully. One of them happens to be my granddaughter.
NNAMDIHow does your program stay accessible to kids from lower income families? Do you offer scholarships?
SANCHEZWell, we do. And we will never turn any children away for any reason. If they can't pay a participation fee, we will scholarship them. And the beauty of our partnership with the National Park Service and the golf courses in D.C., Langston, as well as the other two you mentioned, Rock Creek and East Potomac. East Potomac is our largest program location. It is when we started programming there we could not charge a program fee. We had to make the programs accessible and affordable to kids and in exchange for the access to the facilities. So we have no program fees. All our kids are scholarshiped at the D.C. locations, which is tremendous, and tremendously important to us. Beyond that, our other program locations if you receive free and reduced lunch benefits from school you're on that program, you're completely scholarshiped.
SANCHEZIf you are a military family you're parents are active military, the United States military you're completely scholarshiped in our program. We have a vibrant program for Belvoir, as well, a military community there. And if you don't quality for one of those scholarship entities, and you need further assistance, just let us know what you can pay. If the answer is zero, then that's what you'll pay. We never turn any kids away.
NNAMDIAnd I think Louis in Rockville, Maryland wants to talk about First Tee. Louis, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
LOUISHi Kojo. Yes, I've been playing for 20 years. I'm 31 years old now. And the First Tee was definitely a great opportunity to introduce me to a game I would not have otherwise had access to in the D.C. Metro area. And they're doing great things. And I think, I firmly believe if it wasn't for that program my life could have definitely gone in a direction to not where it is today. I feel like I've been pretty successful in my life. And I owe that, a great deal to the First Tee. Thank you.
NNAMDIYou said, you're 31 now. How old were you when you started playing with the First Tee?
LOUISI was 12 years old when I first started.
SANCHEZWow. Louis, I love to hear you say that. What program location did you learn about, learn from in the First Tee?
LOUISThe First Tee at Paint Branch Golf Course in College Park.
LOUISAnd I recently volunteered at the University of Maryland First Tee Program. I'm a member there.
NNAMDILouis, thank you very much for your call and for sharing your story with us. Elliot Williams, it's safe to say that golf has a bit of a diversity problem; 86 percent of professional golfers are white, according to the 2015 report. And it's even an issue for people who work in the industry; 88 percent of golf industry workers from caddies to greens keepers are white. What do you think Howard University's team this new program can do to help diversify this?
WILLIAMSThat's a great point. And I think the first thing they can do is look in the immediate community. Again, we were talking about how Langston first got its first golfers. They were looking to people in the immediate community for the Langston junior boys and girls golf club. And that's how, you know, they're looking to get diversity, looking to get golfers of color. I didn't grow up golfing. It was, you know, I looked at basketball. Why? Because I saw so many people that looked like me on the court. However, you know, I was talking to one of the families that I interviewed for my story the Jacksons. And they said that when they went to Langston they looked around and saw other golfers that looked like them. That is so important.
WILLIAMSMica Thomas, who was in the First Tee program and featured in our story, she mentioned that, you know, she would go to other courses and maybe not feel discriminated against, but she definitely didn't feel as welcome as she does at Langston. So I think, you know, in looking at the Howard program, looking for ways to make people feel welcome. You know, it's not just about getting them onto the course. It's about how they actually are treated while they're there. You know, you go to Langston, you go in the club room, in the club house. There's a grill there where people are sitting around watching the NBA finals. You know, people are there chatting like you would at your grandmother's house. Those are important aspects of golf culture that might not be as known and celebrated. So celebrating that.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back we will continue this conversation. Howard is teeing up a Division 1 golf program, complements of Steph Curry. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about basketball Steph Curry's decision to finance a golf program, a first Division Golf Program with Howard University. We're talking with Kerry Davis, he's the Director of Athletics at Howard University. Elliott Williams is an Assistant Editor at the Washingtonian. And Clint Sanchez is the Executive Director of the First Tee of Greater Washington, D.C. Clint, Steph Curry's decision to fund both a men's and women's team was intentional. He's invested in gender equity in sports, and golf is a sport that needs it. According to a 2018 report from the National Golf Foundation women comprise only 24 percent of all golfers. Do you see these numbers reflected in your program? And why do you think there's this gender gap?
SANCHEZSo we've been very fortunate in our program the last 3 years. We've had a growing girls program. It's a little over 40 percent, which is over the National First Tee average. And you're right, that study it shows 24 percent. So we're on about 41 or 42 percent. The First Tee really, you know, beyond making programs affordable and accessible we make programs fun and engaging. So it's not all about golf. You know, golf's the hook, of course, but life skills are the, you know, are the key part of our program. And really girls want to make friends, and they want to have friends. So we have some great leadership. Two of my -- three of staff members are females, and they run a great girls golf program there.
SANCHEZSo I think we're proud of that. But you just have to have programming that's going to be centered around girls. And if that's girls only, you know, for a day, one day a week, or outings on weekends, that's what it takes. So we kind of think outside the box like that. But I think there is a gender gap. But I think, you know, it goes back to girls just want to, you know, that old song, girls just want to have fun. They want to be with their friends and golf is a great way to do that.
NNAMDIKerry Davis, right now the MEAC, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference does not have a women's golf program. Who will the Howard Women's Team compete against?
DAVISSo in 2020 when we begin the program they'll probably be independent. So we'll play in local tournaments. We'll host some tournaments ourselves. The idea, however, is the MEAC is looking to add women's golf by 2021. And there are a couple of institutions, who have been contemplating adding a women's golf team. And I actually spoke to two athletic directors. I can't name them obviously. But I've spoken to two athletic directors in the past few days. And they're excited about the opportunity to add a women's team to compete with us.
DAVISAnd, you know, women's sports programs in general do very well at Howard. My volleyball team for example has been to the NCAA Tournament four straight years. My soccer team, my women's soccer team has won 3 out of the last 5 championships. They've been to the tournament 3 out of the last 5 years. The women's basketball team is very good. Howard does not have a problem attracting female students and/or female athletes. So I think, well, right from the beginning we're going to be very competitive.
NNAMDIFour of the schools in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference already have golf teams. You're going to be a fifth. Once you get six then you can go.
NNAMDIMEAC golf tournament, women's golf tournament.
DAVISExactly, and we're excited about that. I think that the MEAC is excited about it as well. And again, one of the things that we're going to do is, we're not going to concentrate on international students or the idea of this program is to give minorities and people of color an opportunity to play golf and that's going to be our concentration.
NNAMDIHere's Nancy in Washington, D.C. Nancy, you're on the air, go ahead please.
NANCYHello. I'm just happy to hear that you're giving this kind of attention to the upcoming golf program at Howard. I'm a Howard graduate and a Washington, D.C. native. And I used to follow my father, St. Elmo Crawford, who's a prominent dentist in D.C. around the golf course -- Langston Golf Course when I was a little girl. So I got to meet Lee Elder and a lot of the other golfers, who were prominent in the D.C. area. And my father was a part of a group of men, black men, who formed the Pro-Duffers, who became actually a national organization of black golfers. And they used to have golf tournaments. They used to go on trips to, I don't know, for golf tournaments.
NNAMDIWell, they're still around.
NANCYAnd they are still around. And they've got a beautiful history. So I was really excited to hear the Washingtonian has done a piece, has done some research on the history of black golfing in D.C. There's so much rich history. And so this is a wonderful program. And I just wondered if anybody knew anything about the Pro-Duffers.
NNAMDIOh, yeah, they must have a thing with dentists. My dentist is a member of Pro-Duffers as a matter of fact.
NANCYYeah. My father was a part of the Pro-Duffers, St. Elmo Crawford. He was one of the founding members of the Pro-Duffers when they first started. And there's a long history before they even became the Pro-Duffers. So, yeah, that's something to look at.
NNAMDIThank you very much for sharing that with us. Here's Nick in Bladensburg, Maryland. Nick, you're turn.
NICKYeah, hi Kojo, how are you? Thanks for taking my call. Man, Langston Golf Course has been a part of my father's life since I've been born, and I'm 55 now. He puts a golf club in every child's hand that comes through his life, my nieces, my cousins, my brothers and my other siblings. My daughter was in the First Tee program as well as my nieces, at Paint Branch as the other caller. And oh, man, I'm just so happy that Howard University is going to finally have a golf team, 'cause they didn't have one when my daughter was applying to colleges. My sister-in-law is an alumni of Howard, and my niece now, she'll be graduating soon. And she plays golf now. And man, I'm just glad, really glad to hear. And you're going to hear a lot of calls from this area of black people that are involved in golf and went to Langston.
NNAMDIYeah, the athletic directors is already getting them. Don't worry about that.
NICKWell, I don't know how serious my niece was to be about it. But my daughter didn't want to play in college. And probably could have. But, oh man, it's really, it's just a really good feeling to know that Steph Curry would do this, you know. You got to take your hat off to this man for this, because this, you know, golf in this area, I mean Howard should have a golf team, you know, with the history here and stuff.
NNAMDIAnd now --
NICKAnd I sure hope that, you know, that is successful. And after it starts that it continues. My daughter was, and my niece were actually the first golf team at Seton High School, a Catholic High School in Bladensburg, Maryland. They were the flagship team of that school. So and it's continued so --
NNAMDIAnd Nick, clearly you're very excited about this. But my time is running short. So thank you very much for sharing your excitement with us. Kristin tweets, when I was a kid in the early 2000 my grandma would take my cousin and me to play at Langston Golf Course. It was my first time getting to hang out with other black and brown kids playing golf. Great experience, but too bad I never got good at golf. And then there is this one from Jerry. I grew up in this area and this is the first time hearing about the Langston Golf Course and driving range. It sounds like a great place to play and enjoy. I can't wait to visit. Elliot Williams, you interviewed people, who frequent Langston Golf Course today. Did you get a sense of what Langston means to this community? And tell us in particular about Ray Savoy.
WILLIAMSAbsolutely. I got a great sense for the pride and the history of Langston and how much it means to Washingtonians, particularly black Washingtonians. You mentioned Ray Savoy. He's a part-time golf instructor at Langston. But he got started golfing there years and decades ago when he was a teacher and student at Miner Teachers College, which is now the University of D.C. As an elective he chose golfing. And, of course, golfing was at Langston, that elective. So he learned golf, he was a semi-pro baseball player before this. And, you know, into team sports. At first Mr. Savoy was a little bit, you know, not interested in the slow pace of golf, but he soon learned how great the sport can be. You know, how much he could reflect while out on the links. And, you know, now he leads the youth program that I mentioned before.
WILLIAMSAnd we were talking before about women in golf. It turns out the oldest African-American women's golf club was started right here in D.C. And that's The Wake-Robin Club. So they were very instrumental in petitioning the Secretary of the Interior to get Langston open and to also desegregate golfing in D.C.
NNAMDINot a lot of time left. But Kerry Davis, there's been a lot of speculation about where Howard's team will practice and compete. Where are you thinking? Is Langston on the table?
DAVISLangston is definitely on the table. But I want everyone to compete. And so it's so we can get the best deal. No, we did the outing at Langston for that reason, 'cause we thought it was an important part of the narrative for the day, that we want to make, increase the opportunities for minorities to play golf. And what better place to do it than someplace like Langston. Right now Langston is going through a little bit of a turnover. The operators lease or license is up, and that's being renegotiated. So at that point whoever does become the new operator we will definitely engage them in conversations about not only using it as our practice course, but also using it as a course too that we would compete at.
NNAMDIYeah. A lot of my friends are looking to see what's going to happen at Langston, what's going to happen at Rock Creek, what's going to happen at East Potomac. We'll see how these contracts are negotiated. Kerry Davis, of the Athletic Director at Howard University, thank you so much for joining us.
DAVISI appreciate it, thank you.
NNAMDIElliot Williams is an Assistant Editor at Washingtonian. Elliot, thank you for joining us.
WILLIAMSThanks for having me Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Clint Sanchez is the Executive Director of the First Tee of Greater Washington, D.C. Clint, thank you for joining us.
SANCHEZThanks a lot Kojo.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back we will be talking with D.C. Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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