The Florida A&M golf staff got here one stroke wanting capturing the inaugural Bridgestone HBCU Invitational.
However the staff garnered loads of victories elsewhere, as the PGA Tour—along side Bridgestone—staged a match empowering athletes from traditionally black schools and universities (HBCU).
“The golf course was in nice form, the competitors was good, however I feel one of the best half was having [business] leaders share their story of how they’ve gotten to the place they’re of their careers, and sharing that with the student-athletes was big,” stated Mike Rice, the top coach of the Florida A&M males’s golf staff, in an unique interview with Playing Through.
The match, held from Nov. 1-2 at TPC Sugarloaf outdoors of Atlanta, featured 15 groups from HBCUs: 10 males’s groups and 5 ladies’s groups.
Arkansas Pine-Bluff emerged victorious on the lads’s aspect, whereas Alabama State took dwelling the trophy on the ladies’s aspect.
Although wins are significant, this match was rather more about golf, as Coach Rice alluded to.
HBCU Bridgestone Invitational greater than a match
As a part of the occasion, eight leaders from Bridgestone, the PGA Tour, the Atlanta Hawks, Mercedes-Benz, and different corporations—and ESPN’s Michael Collins—held a dialogue panel catered to the student-athletes earlier than the competitors started.
“You don’t know should you’re gonna have nice engagement while you’re speaking about training and studying at 9 a.m,” stated Caitlyn Ranson, the top of partnership advertising and marketing for Bridgestone Americas, in an interview with Taking part in By way of.
“But it surely was so unbelievable.”
“The gamers had been tremendous enthusiastic about it, and it’s simply that what’s thrilling is that Bridgestone just isn’t solely sponsoring this program for the event of the sport, however we’re additionally hoping to show these athletes and supply these athletes alternatives with an thought of what life after sport will appear like.”
The executives spoke about their success tales, providing recommendation about what to do as a younger skilled and emphasizing that golf can create alternatives in lots of walks of life.
However additionally they invoked confidence in these younger women and men.
“[Many student athletes] really feel they lack expertise and jobs prior to now versus those that have had internships with all these big-name corporations,” Ranson added.
“Simply since you haven’t had an unbelievable internship doesn’t imply the abilities that sports activities and the sport of golf are instructing can’t be utilized.”
After the panel concluded, the panelists separated into teams at completely different tables. That created a extra intimate setting with every of the student-athletes. Matters included resume-building, navigating LinkedIn, and methods to deal with skilled interviews.
Most significantly, these close-knit discussions additionally talked in regards to the racial boundaries that sadly nonetheless exist and methods to energy via and prevail.
“We had been very intentional with being positive there was illustration of colour as a result of we wish these athletes to see themselves sooner or later,” Ranson stated.
“We all know that illustration issues, and it begins with seeing it. One other key facet of the panel was that we wished to make sure these athletes may see themselves.”
Numerous illustration inside skilled golf has been an issue for years.
That situation prevails at this time, too. Contemplate the 2023 U.S. Open on the Los Angeles Nation Membership, the place the sector didn’t embody a single black participant.
One-hundred and fifty-six people teed it up in America’s nationwide championship, and but, the match didn’t characterize the various inhabitants the US has to supply.
Which explains why the PGA Tour and Bridgestone have joined forces to empower these student-athletes. This program not solely can present a pathway for an HBCU participant to make the PGA Tour, but it surely additionally offers somebody a number of avenues to pursue different skilled alternatives—each in and outdoors of golf.
PGA Tour taking steps to handle range points
“Much more goes into this than simply hitting the ball,” stated Kenyatta Ramsey, the Vice President of Participant Improvement for the PGA Tour, in an interview with Taking part in By way of.
“We’re attempting to construct a holistic program that’s serving to these guys not solely on the course however off the course. We’re serving to them with funds, psychological well being, scheduling in your tournaments, and many others.”
Holistic is the phrase Ramsey saved utilizing to explain this occasion—an ideal time period to explain the imaginative and prescient that the PGA Tour and Bridgestone have for shaping these future professionals.
“There’s a lot that goes into it,” Ramsey continued.
“And there’s a lot extra that’s wanted should you don’t have the help system such as you do while you come out of school, and also you go to the NBA or NFL, and you’ve got an entire franchise there serving to you. Nicely, in golf, you might be by yourself. We underestimate the opposite stuff that permits professionals to be professionals.
“Now, we’re attempting to get them able to be contained in the ropes, but it surely’s like with the ability to supply assets holistically in your growth. I do know we are going to drastically affect the general presence of various expertise on the excursions.”
The profession panel was undoubtedly a spotlight, however as for the match itself, the winners obtained a trophy and an invite to TPC Sawgrass for a two-day developmental camp.
That program will undoubtedly enhance the play of dozens of HBCU student-athletes.
However coaches have reaped the rewards of this initiative as nicely.
Bridgestone will sponsor the HBCU Coaches Summit, which helps mentor and supply coaches with higher insights. The summit is in collaboration with the Golf Coaches Affiliation of America (GCAA) and the Black School Golf Coaches Affiliation (BCGCA).
“It’s nice to have the ability to sit in a room and listen to a few of the stuff that these different coaches which have received championships are doing,” Rice stated in regards to the summit, which he attended final 12 months.
Coaches are academics, and academics assist empower future generations, whether or not in preschool or pre-law.
“I’m flabbergasted by the quantity of ardour and love that these coaches have for these children,” Ramsey stated.
Therefore the necessity to present coaches with useful assets who will proceed supporting HBCU student-athletes.
Discuss a holistic strategy.
“Hopefully 10 years from now, in an ideal world, one among these gamers from the HBCU Invitational is on the tour, proper?” Ranson stated.
“That’s what we spoke about on the profession panels. Like, you guys reside historical past proper now as a result of you’ve gotten this chance to create change. As a result of on the finish of the day, what actually issues for future generations is gamers and followers have to see themselves mirrored within the sport that they play.”
However HBCU student-athletes are already making an affect.
Take a look at Eastside Golf, the attire firm based by Earl Cooper and Olajuwon Ajanaku, two males who starred on the Morehouse School golf staff.
Unsurprisingly, Eastside Golf, whose goal is to additional diversify golf via its merchandise, has lent its hand to assist these gamers who competed within the HBCU Bridgestone Invitational.
And this firm serves as an ideal instance of the general mission of the match.
“What we are attempting to do with the HBCU golf community is elevating the ground and rewarding the ceiling,” Ramsey stated.
“That’s what we’re attempting to do with everybody and each staff. We’re gonna get everyone as much as a degree the place everyone could be profitable collectively. However then we wish to have the ability to reward the actually profitable ones with regards to aggressive points with enhanced alternatives which are gonna show you how to develop after which assist those beneath you to inspire and encourage to be.”
So when trying again on the ultimate tally from the 2023 HBCU Bridgestone Invitational, did Florida A&M actually lose?