Talking Youth and Golf with Ken Bentley. : ThyBlackMan

Saturday, December 15, 2018


Talking Youth and Golf with Ken Bentley.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) When Tiger Woods emerged on the golf seen he made black people that never gave golf a second look watch. We were happy not only to see a brother, but it was exciting that he was the best. It was as if golf was being revitalized on the athleticism and greatness of Tiger Woods. He wasn’t like anything many of us thought of when we thought of golf. However, black people have been playing golf long before Tiger Woods and would like to see it passed on to our youth. It is important for our kids to understand there are many more sports they can excel in and play professionally outside of basketball and football. ThyBlackMan.com sat down with Ken Bentley, one of the founders of the Advocates Professional Golf Association, to talk about golf and why its important we get out youth involved.

TBM: For our readers that might have not heard of it what is the purpose of advocates USA?

KB: we are actually Advocates Professional Golf Association. It’s a different organization. We all started together as Advocates USA.  I used to get a bunch of my friends together to play golf, and we would just go to different places around the country. One time I just said why don’t we all pitch in $50.00 and buy a set a clubs, do a raffle and donate money to charity. It was so successful the guys chipped in more than that and we were able to give money to a charity. We decided to formalize that, and we started doing tournaments like that twice a year and we’d pick a charity. One of our guys Adrian Stills played on the PGA tour.  He came up to me one day and saidthe reason why we don’t have more blacks on the PGA tour is because in the old days we had a place we could play”. There was a tour like the negro leagues in baseball called The United Golf Association Tour. He said it was an opportunity for guys to really play, and there wasn’t that opportunity today. I got some money from Nestle and we started the Advocates Professional Golf Association tour. Advocates USA continued what they were doing, and we broke off and created the APGA so we are separate organization. With the APGA tour we started the Advocated Foundation.

Whenever we have a tournament we bring in 50-100 young people, we give them a golf lesson, talk to them about careers, and we also talk about health and wellness, and sexual health. We have an essay contest on why its important to live a healthy lifestyle, and we give the winners scholarships. We’ve been doing this now for nine years; this year we were in seven cities, and next year we will be in eight. On the professional tournament side just about every professional African-American has played in our tournament except for Tiger. We have seven tournaments and over $200,000 in prize money, and three of the guys who’ve played in our tournaments are now playing on the PGA tour. We’ve been pretty successful since we’ve started; we had three tournaments and now we will have eight next year.

TBM: Why do you think there has been a decline in the African-American interest in golf? Do you think it ties in with Tiger Woods, or not necessarily?

KB: I think there a lot of African-Americans playing golf. I think there are much more playing, but the numbers of players on the PGA tour have declined.  Part of it is what I mentioned before there wasn’t an avenue to play. To me, the biggest reason for the decline is the cost. Its so expensive to play; its outrageously expensive. A set of clubs can cost you $3,000; we figure it can cost someone $30,000 – $40,000 a year just to try to play professional golf. There is the cost of going to tournaments and taking lessons and that is doing it the cheap way. So, the cost is really the biggest factor I believe.

There are a lot of people now trying to address that. We have a partnership with the PGA tour, and they have really been great, not only at financially supporting us, but in the area of providing courses for our guys to play to having our top guys down at their facility to meet their coaches and physical trainers. There are people that realize its an issue and are actively starting to address it. I think we have been able to raise that profile of that issue, and also to provide an avenue for our players. Our guys are getting better and I think in the next five years you will see a couple of more people on the PGA tour. But black people are playing golf. The numbers are still small relatively speaking because the cost is up there, but you see more people playing.

TBM: What encourages you to get the youths focal point in the direction of golf? Other sports have their reasons so what would be that for golf?

KB: I’d say probably the reason I started playing golf is I was working in corporate America and I was an executive. All of the executives would go out and play golf, so I was left behind because I didn’t play. So in the four or five hours they were together they would form relationships, do deals and talk about promotions and I was on the sidelines because I didn’t play. When I decided I wanted to try getting as far as I could in business I knew I had to play golf; I wanted to play good enough to play with those guys. I ended up falling in love with it. When you ask why kids should play that is one reason, because if you are going to go into business you need to play golf. Secondly, it’s a sport you can do for a lifetime especially if you have a family. When my wife and I go on vacation we play golf. It’s a time for 4-5hours we can spend together. I have grandkids and they play. It’s a time we can spend together; it’s a great family activity.

There are a lot of kids programs that take the cost out of it. First tee is a great program; they provide lesson and its almost pretty free, and they have deals with golf courses where kids can play for a dollar. If a kid, young person, wants to learn there are a lot of avenues. Our objective is to introduce the game to kids to make it fun for them. When we go to different cities we give them a fun lesson, and if they show and interest to want to continue we find a program in the city and pay for them to continue taking lessons.

TBM: We know about the scholarships for sports like football and basketball, but there seems to be a lot of golf scholarships also.

KB: It’s interesting last year there were over 400 scholarships for girls that went unused because there weren’t enough girls to take them. If you are a young lady and a decent golfer you can easily get a college scholarship. With Title IX they have to have an equal number od scholarships for girls and boys. So, there are a lot more golf scholarships for girls than boys. There are many scholarships for football and girls don’t have football. Since colleges have to have a total number of scholarships that are equal for girls and boys so sports live golf, volleyball and tennis in women’s sports have more scholarships than boys. There are a lot of scholarships that ladies are not taking advantage of because they don’t play golf.

TBM: How can parents get their kids interested in golf when it’s not the most interesting sport to watch to some?

KB: I think you have to play. I would encourage parents to play there is something golf; until I started playing I had never watched a golf tournament. Even now I don’t go to that many golf tournaments I watch it on TV all the time. I would say to parents you don’t have to watch it on television you can go out and play. Its something about hitting a golf ball that you can’t get in any other sport. I’ve played baseball, basketball in school, and tennis in school but there is nothing like the feel of hitting a golf ball. There is also the challenge of it because you never master this sport. I don’t care how long you play or how good you think you’d get you never master it, and I think that is the real challenge. You end up challenging yourself. Its also so relaxing; you are our there and the scenery is beautiful. Parents play; get some old clubs and take the kids out. I think they will see the joy in the whole experience; it’s a beautiful sport.  You really have to play it to appreciate it. You can’t merely watch it on television or go to a tournament you really have to play to appreciate the sport.

It is important that we introduce our children to a vast amount of opportunities that can doors for them. This begins with allowing ourselves to also be open to sports that were not always available in the neighborhood. Golf is definitely a good sport to embrace when looking at entering the corporate game, and it is another avenue that can pay for a college education. It may also be a great stress reliever and a sport that reinforces patience in our young people. Check out the APGA at https://www.apgatour.org/, and keep up with the tournaments. If the APGA in your city it would be great to take your children. They may discover a new passion that will open doors of opportunity for them as they develop in life.

Instagramhttp://www.instagram.com/apgatour/

Staff Writer; Christian Starr

May connect with this sister over at Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/christian.pierre.9809 and also Twitterhttp://twitter.com/MrzZeta.


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