When she was 10 years previous, Jasmin Cunningham couldn’t perceive why her dad saved taking her to play golf. She appeared round and didn’t see anybody like her at the course.
“I requested my dad, ‘Why would you set me on this sport? There’s no different women that appear like me,’” Cunningham informed Monica McNutt in an interview for PGA of America and GoodSport.
Now, golf is Cunningham’s life, and he or she works to make Black golfers extra seen each on and off the course. Cunningham, who’s the eighth Black lady to earn a PGA membership, works as an account consultant at Titleist, and is a member of the firm’s inside Variety, Inclusion and Belonging Council.
However it wasn’t till Cunningham bought to the College of Maryland Japanese Shore, a traditionally Black college with a singular skilled golf administration main program, that she was round loads of different Black golfers.
The golf course is instantly seen when driving into Japanese Shore, and having the program at an HBCU supplied a unique perspective to Black college students who hadn’t ever been excited by the sport as a result of they didn’t see gamers who appeared like them, Cunningham mentioned.
After seeing her on the market taking part in, Cunningham mentioned college students would ask her if she might educate them how.
“Whenever you’re watching golf as a Black particular person, you’re like, ‘Okay, I don’t see anyone that appears like me, I don’t need to watch it. I’m going to watch basketball, soccer as a substitute,’” she mentioned. “However the different college students at the college, now they really see folks of shade taking part in golf, so it’s like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m a bit of bit extra . Let me watch golf on TV, or let me be part of a free clinic that they’re internet hosting.’”
Getting Cunningham a scholarship at a university like UMES was precisely why her father dragged her to the course when she was 10, she mentioned. When he defined to her that getting a golf scholarship might get her into a university out of state, she began taking the recreation extra critically. Finally, she fell in love with it.
UMES appealed to Cunningham due to a advice from her mentor, PGA professional Daryl Batey, and since the faculty supplied a minor that match her pursuits in tourism and hospitality. She earned free tuition by way of the Renee Powell Scholarship—named for the legendary Black golfer whom Cunningham had seen as a job mannequin for years.
In the Sixties and 70s, Powell—the first Black lady to earn a PGA membership—endured racism all through her 13-year profession on the LPGA tour, and has devoted herself to increasing golf to a extra various group of gamers since she retired from the tour in 1980.
Her father, Invoice Powell, constructed Clearview Golf Club, the first course in the U.S. that was designed, owned and operated by an African-American. Renee Powell now serves as the membership’s head skilled.
“Watching her and her expertise clearly gave me a unique perspective on the recreation, and realizing, ‘Oh, I can do one thing like that. A lady who appears like me, I can undoubtedly pursue a profession in golf, and I don’t simply have to play it,’” Cunningham mentioned.
Cunningham first met Powell when she was a freshman at UMES. She mentioned she “flipped out” when she heard Powell was coming. Powell’s energy and resilience conjures up Cunningham, who mentioned the legend reminds her that she wants to maintain pushing for the Black ladies who’re arising behind her.
Cunningham has labored her means up in two areas the place offers are sometimes made–on the golf course, and in the boardroom. She mentioned Titleist acknowledges the worth of listening to her perspective on issues they could have by no means heard of earlier than, and he or she needs different Black ladies to see the similar alternatives accessible to them.
“What motivates me is basically the ladies behind me,” Cunningham mentioned, “as a result of I need them to see a Black lady have a management position inside an organization and say, ‘Wow, I’m in a position to do what she’s doing.”
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