Advertisement

Archive for Saturday, April 7, 2007

Commentary: Don’t overstate Tiger’s responsibility

April 7, 2007

Advertisement

— Half a score and half-a-billion dollars ago, our Tiger brought forth on this golf course a new game conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

So where are the black golfers?

This week marks 10 years since Tiger Woods delivered the Gettysburg Address of golf. He won The Masters by 12 shots and immediately was declared the Second Coming of Jackie Robinson.

A lot has changed since then, but two things remain the same - the color of the players and the color of the balls.

There are actually fewer blacks than ever on tour. There are none in this year's Masters unless you count Woods, who dubbed himself a "Cablinasian" for his mix of Asian and black ancestry.

In our modern age, this is seen as a crime against diversity. Something must be wrong, and somebody must be held accountable.

The truth is, it's just golf being golf. People got too caught up in that 1997 moment, starting with the first person Tiger hugged after winning.

"He's qualified though his ethnicity to accomplish miracles," Earl Woods said. "The world is just getting a taste of his power."

Woods can win 12 majors, sell a trillion golf shirts, leap Phil Mickelson in a single bound. But expecting him to be the next Robinson was delusional. For one thing, there were scores of qualified blacks waiting to play baseball.

Golf undoubtedly had a color barrier. The first black wasn't allowed to play at Augusta until 1975, the year Earl and Kultida welcomed Eldrick into the world.

Society never will be completely color blind, but that's no longer what's keeping the game so white. The biggest barrier in 1997 was there in 1897 and probably will be there in 2097.

Economics.

To play basketball or football, you need a playground and one kid with a ball. To play golf, you need a set of clubs and a course. And that's just for starters.

"You've got to go through junior golf, you've got to go through amateur golf, the collegiate ranks, and then you go to the mini-tours, even some of the foreign tours," Woods said. "Then you get out here, get established and then you've got to make your way up the world rankings."

Golf may be the ultimate meritocracy in sports. A 9-iron doesn't know what color the person is who's swinging it. The irony is, there were far more black pros in the days of segregated water fountains.

From 1964-86, five blacks won 23 PGA Tour tournaments. Most began playing as caddies.

As golf has gotten more popular with regular people (read: guys who don't drive Jaguars or walk around with sweaters tied around their necks), caddie programs have disappeared in favor of revenue-producing carts.

It's not as if the sport hasn't noticed what's going on. Golf's governing bodies have funded the First Tee Program since 1997. There are more than 250 facilities in the United States and five other countries, and more than 700,000 youths have been exposed to golf since 2000.

Woods has made golf socially acceptable to America's youth. His foundation has made it easier for thousands to play. But his Pied-Piper Effect has been much greater in Asia than here.

That's not his fault, and it's not Augusta National's fault. The world has gotten a huge taste of Tiger's power, but 10 years after his big debut, we're getting a taste of reality.

All men may have been created equal. All sports were not.

Comments

bearded_gnome 7 years, 7 months ago

In our modern age, this is seen as a crime against diversity. Something must be wrong, and somebody must be held accountable.

crime against diversity. soon, these crimes will be enacted into law by the politically correct. oh boy.

"cablinasian" what a term. he's multiracial.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.