Sunday, June 17, 2007

Race and women's golf

This feature about LPGA golfer LaRee Sugg is very good at chronicling her experience on the tour while also highlighting the absence of black women in the game of golf. Oddly (or maybe not) little attention seems to be paid to the lack of black women playing on the LPGA. There are many women of color playing golf given the international composition of the tour. We see women of color playing and winning and contending in every tournament: Se Ri Pak, Lorena Ochoa, Birdie Kim, and many more. There is the appearance of diversity. And to some extent there is diversity on the tour--a certain kind of diversity.
Why aren't there more African-American women on the tour? Because class also plays a factor. When we look at socioeconomic factors alongside race and gender we see the black women in the United States have fewer opportunities to even access the means necessary to play the game, let alone be encouraged to play it. (This was actually not the situation Sugg was in as a youngster. Her grandfather was a college dean and golf coach and when she expressed interest in the game, he mentored her.)
I see, in the promotionals for the development programs the LPGA runs during tournaments, that there are young black girls who are learning the game. The question is, how long will development programs support them?* There are golf scholarships for women, Sugg got one to UCLA. But after college? It costs a lot to qualify and play on the LPGA between travel, coaching, and equipment. Sugg herself said that in her best years she probably only earned $15,000. This could lead us into a discussion of the pay disparity that exists between women's and men's golf but I will save that topic for another time.

*Or do development programs support them at all? Here is the LPGA-USGA's site for a national girls' golf program and I haven't been able to find any information about costs.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Historically, this has been the situation in tennis, also--that economically disadvantaged girls of every color have not had access to the training and facilities needed to be a pro player. And not just in the U.S.--the most dramatic case is Evonne Goolagong, who was found peeking through the gate at a tennis court, and was allowed in by a kind man, who later guided her to become a multiple Grand Slam winner. (And even then, some of the media referred to her as the "little chocolate drop.")