The Ryder Cup hits our screens at the end of September, and golf enthusiasts eagerly await to see their favorite players in action. While golf remains a predominantly white affair, the Ryder Cup has several talented black players making a name for themselves on the green.
Every two years, 24 of the best players from Europe and the United States go pitch-to-putt in a match-play competition that makes the Ryder Cup the world’s most incredible golf event. The Ryder Cup was started in 1927, and the first game was at Worcester Country Club, Worcester, Massachusetts. Walter Hagen captained the first gentleman’s game for the USA and Ted Ray for Britain.
The years after the war were considered formative, and the Ryder Cup began to take on a more significant identity. However, it wasn’t until 1985 that the cup took on a European flavor. While the European representation meant there were some non-white players, we didn’t really see African Americans, Mexican Americans, or those of African-European descent until Lee Elder became part of the PGA Tour in 1977.
Elder did not win the Ryder Cup, but plenty of black golfers have made a difference to the PGA Tour. Introducing Cameron Mackray Champ.
Who’s Made the Cut?
Cameron Champ is a Champion
Cameron Mackray Champ is a 28-year-old professional golfer who happens to be mixed-race. Winner of the Junior Ryder Cup in 2012, today, his mighty swing and precision shots have earned him an excellent reputation, but it’s not enough for this year’s pick for the US Ryder Cup team.
Of African-American and Mexican-American descent, Champ has been lauded for his athleticism and dedication to the game. Champ is on the bench but is a name to watch during the PGA Tour.
Captain Zach Johnson picks Collin Morikawa
Johnson picked Morikawa for this year’s American Ryder Cup team. Morikawa is of Chinese-Japanese descent; also chosen is Rickie Fowler, who is a quarter Japanese, and Xander Schauffele, who automatically qualified.
Schauffele has a European father and a Taiwanese mother. The remaining cohort includes Sam Burns, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, and Max Homa. So where are the African Americans, Mexican Americans, or African European players?
Checking the European Team, we have Francesco and Edoardo Molinari (brothers), José Maria Olazábal, Nicolas Colsaerts, Thomas Bjørn, plus Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Robert MacIntyre, and Tyrrell Hatton – but no African European players – none, nada, non, níl and Nei.
Eldrick Tont Woods: Where Are You?
The most famous black golf player in recent times is Eldrick Tont Woods or Tiger, but you knew that. Tiger was born to African-American parents with European, Native American, and Chinese ancestry.
Tiger needs no introduction, but did you know his half-niece, Cheyenne Woods, has impressed fans and critics with her skill and poise on the course? Woods, who has won multiple tournaments on the Ladies European Tour, is the sixth African-American to play on the LPGA Tour; Woods has always been a spokesperson for diversification in the sport.
Sadly, Cheyenne Woods is unlikely to return to professional golf anytime soon as she is about to give birth to another child, and anyone who has children knows how tiring young children can be. Give Cheyenne another five years, and she may return to the PGA.
Black Women in Tour Golf 1963-2023
2016 was a premium year for women’s golf; Cheyenne Woods was one of five African-American women representing the USA at the tour level. Shasta Averyhardt, Sadena Parks, Mariah Stackhouse, and Ginger Howard set the standards in a historic time in golf.
The first successful black female golfer was Althea Gibson, who won five Grand Slam singles tournaments. In 1967, Gibson became the first African American woman to compete on the Ladies PGA tour.
After her golf career ended, Gibson advocated for sport by becoming America’s first woman state athletic commissioner in 1976. Renee Powell follows hot on her heels, 1967 -1981. LaRee Sugg embraced golf in the mid-90s to the early 00. In 1995, Sugg became the third-ever African-American woman golfer in the LPGA.
That leaves Mariah Stackhouse, who currently has an estimated wealth through golf of $676,984, ranking T23 in the PGA. Talking to the Golf Channel, Stackhouse’s mother says that Stackhouse’s father was not allowed to play golf at the club he caddied at.
While it’s not clear if it was race that stopped Ken Stackhouse from playing at Myrtle Beach or the antiquated membership rules that prevent most people from joining prestigious golf clubs, there are indeed almost no African Americans, Mexican Americans, or African European players in the top tier of players.
John Thompson is the One to Watch
John Thompson is a 17-year-old golfer from South Carolina who is making a splash on the greens. With the following attachments on his scorecard, Thompson is the one to watch.
- SC Junior Match Play T9 – finished 72 and advanced to the round of 16.
- GSA Sparkle City Shootout T18 – finished 77.
- SCJGA Qualifier 1st – finished 71.
- 5A State Championship T41 with a 2nd round 72.
- 5A Upper State T18 – finished 78.
All this, and he is only 17! When John goes to college next year, his presence on a college golf team will contribute to this positive trend and add a unique perspective and talent to any school’s golf team roster.
Notably, African-American participation in college golf is on the rise. Recent statistics reveal a 23% increase in African-American golfers participating in collegiate programs in 2019 across the US; while the pandemic put paid to many golfers’ aspirations, 2023 looks good, but male or female representation could always be better in terms of black golfers.
In soccer, the MLS is building participation for black players and coaches, and the same should happen with the PGA. As the Ryder Cup approaches, these and other black golfers will be vying for a chance to showcase their talents and prove that they are among the world’s best. For fans of the sport, it’s an exciting time to watch and a chance to see history being made.