By Rickey Hampton, For TheAfricanAmericanAthlete.com
All eyes are on Tiger Woods’ resurgence as the 14-time major winner competes in the British Open this weekend, a victory by Woods would cap arguably the most productive three week stretch of golf by black professional golfers ever.
Two weeks ago 29-year-old Willie Mack III out of Flint, Mi., and Bethune Cookman University, shot a sizzling, 12-under par 60 at a Web.Com qualifier at Shorewood Country Club in New York. That round beat the course record by three shots and earned him a spot in the field of the LECOM Health Challenge.
Although Mack failed to make the cut, his stunning round is an example of just how good he can be. Mack has been playing on various tours around the world and hopes to make it to the PGA Tour one day. He definitely has the game to do it.
That same weekend on the PGA Tour, Harold Varner III took the 54-hole lead into the final round of the Greenbrier. Varner couldn’t finish the deal, but he gained some valuable experience, not to mention nearly $250,000 for his fifth-place finish.
Varner followed that week up with another strong showing at the John Deere Classic last weekend, with a strong sixth-place finish. Varner, in his fourth year on the PGA Tour, won the 2016 Australian Open. He has earned more than $1 million so far this season.
However, he is still seeking his first win on the PGA Tour. That day is coming soon, as he continues to establish himself. Varner started playing golf as a kid in Charlotte, N.C. where he was embraced by the Par-Busters, one of the many black golf groups across the country.
“Honestly, I just felt like I was one of the guys — without the drinking and stuff that goes on at the golf course,” Varner told The Undefeated’s Jerry Bremby “Those guys looked after me. They fed me on the course, and they often made sure I got home.
“The biggest lesson I got from them: to just have fun. That’s the reason why they played golf, to get out with their friends, talk some smack and have fun.”
Also last weekend Cameron Champ won the Utah Championship on the Web.com Tour, firing rounds of 61-64-67-68 to finish 24-under-par. The victory seemed inevitable for the former Texas A&M All-American, who entered the event coming off four consecutive top-four finishes. Champ, who was the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world, is one of the most potent players in professional golf. Champ’s success on the Web.com Tour will earn him a promotion to the PGA Tour next season.
Champ was introduced to the game by his grandfather, Mack, who as a young man was turned away from courses when he wanted to play because he was black. Click to see the feature on Cameron and his grandfather.
There are a group of young black players on the LPGA Tour as well. Cheyenne Woods, the niece of Tiger, Sadena Parks, Ginger Howard and Mariah Stackhouse all have status in the LPGA Tour. With Tiger Woods at the tail end of his extraordinary career, there are a lot of people who think black athletes playing golf at a high level will be no more. These young athletes are proof positive that just isn’t the case.