Northern California Golf Association Board Member Dr. Al Brown Shares Insights About The Game Of Golf

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Longtime Sacramento area resident Dr. Al Brown is a member of the of the Northern California Golf Association Board of Directors. The NCGA’s mission is to support the game of golf, administer course ratings, maintain members’ USGA Handicap Indexes and teach the Rules of Golf.

The NCGA, as a part of the USGA, is assisting with planning and organizing the 119th U.S. Open Championship which will be held June 13-16 at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, CA.

Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted the U.S. Open in five consecutive decades and the 119th edition will be the 13th USGA championship to be conducted at the resort.

In 2000, Tiger Woods won the first of his three U.S. Opens with a historic 15-stroke triumph. Woods also won the 2002 and 2008 U.S. Opens, and earlier this year, won his 15th Major championship by winning the Masters.

Dr. Brown — a former professor at Sacramento State University and currently serves on the Sacramento County Office of Education Board of Directors — shares his thoughts about how he got involved in the game of golf and the opportunities available to men and women of color in golf.

Q: What/Who got you into the game of Golf?

A: I never considered golf as a child growing up in segregated Montgomery, Alabama. We played basketball and football because they were accessible. When I became a teacher in Sacramento, I was approached by a friend to try golf and I joined the local African American golf association, the Sacramento Area Black Golf Club (SABGC).This was 1975 when I joined and eventually served as an officer for several years. I was playing in golf tournaments throughout Northern California, Reno, Nevada and Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona.

The people that motivated me to play golf were many African American golfers, but, just to name a few, Handy Gray,one of the original founders of SABGC, Sheldon Connerly, James Curtis, Clyde Daniels, Cassius Hudson, Ed Pressley and William “Bill” Dickey, who was a founding member of The National Minority Junior Golf Scholarship organization (that provided college scholarships). SABGC organized a minority scholarship program which supported college golfers.

As a college professor, golf allowed me the opportunity to give back and help young boys and girls learn how to play golf and learn life skills.

Q: How did you get involved with the Northern California Golf Association (NCGA)?

A: After serving with SABGC, I was approached to apply to be an official of NCGA and served as an official in northern California golf tournaments as a Red Coat official in the 1990s (officials no longer wear red coats). This required me to be interviewed by an NCGA Board Member, Eddie LeBaron (retired NFL quarterback).

Then, approximately two years ago in 2017, I was approached by NCGA past Board Member, John Nakamura to apply to serve as a Board Member. I was one of several applicants and one of five selected for interviews for two board positions. Having served as a Red Coat had a positive impact on my interview. The interview committee selected me and a golf member from the San Jose Country Club. My home course is Rancho Murieta Country Club.

Q: What is the Mission of the NCGA?

A: The mission of the NCGA is to support and promote the game of Golf. To me, this means that the NCGA is the organization that represents the interests of all golfers and clubs in our region, and provide programming, tournaments and other golf-related services that help golfers better enjoy the game while we attract new golfers to the game.

Q: Does the NCGA (or the game of golf) have a Diversity initiative? If not, does it need one? If so, What are its goals and how will we know if it is successful?

A: There are several programs in the game of Golf which support diversity in the game.

For example, the NCGA through its foundation, “Youth on Course” has a scholarship program which annually grants approximately $250,000, which 66 percent go to people of color and 66 percent female. The NCGA has also been working very closely on unification efforts with the two women’s golf associations in the region to work together to grow women participation in the game.

Our NCGA “Youth on Course” program allows children under 18 years of age to play certain courses for $5 and it is located in 31 states and Canada.
Our annual scholarship luncheon will be held in Oakland in July, and many selected are the first in their family to attend college.

Other initiatives exist across the golf industry. The National Golf Foundation and organizations that track data on golf participation has some very encouraging statistics.

Of Junior Golfers, 36 percent are girls compared to 15 percent in 2000 (more than double the rate) and almost 25 percent are non-White while it was only 6 percent 20 years ago.

Our data in Northern California is a lot better because of “Youth on Course” and First Tee programs.

Other opportunities in the golf industry includes the USGS which has been a big supporter by partnering with golf associations for internships, which is called the P.J. Boatwright Internship program.

The P.J. Boatwright internship program, since its inception 27 years ago, has provided more than $28 million to fund nearly 2,400 paid internships at its allied state and regional golf associations in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Mexico. This initiative has also helped to bring a more diverse talent pool to golf associations.

Q: Why do you think it is so hard for Blacks (men and women ) to play Professional Golf?

A: I personally feel that lack of exposure to the game of golf at an early age and a lack of mentors create a barrier to professional golf.
Also, access to public golf courses from a minority neighborhood (lack of transportation and equipment).

There are many talented and athletic children but they are not taught the skills at an early age to become competitive at the college and professional level.

Q: What opportunities are there for Blacks to get into the golf industry?

A: Blacks can take advantage of several opportunities in the golf industry such as promotion of golf events, marketing, sales of golf equipment, working at a golf course, serving as a teaching professional, golf coach at a public or private institution and becoming a professional golfer on one of the professional tours.

Today, we have three PGA professionals on tour and they are Tiger Woods, Harold Varner III and Cameron Champ (who hails from Sacramento).

Q: Speaking of Tiger Woods, what has been his impact on the game of golf in general?

A: He has dispelled the false assumption that a Black person could not become a leader in the golf industry and a role model to all young people, that golf is fun, enjoyable and achievable through hard work, and adults in general appreciate how he has transformed golf.

Q: What are some of your reflections on the game of golf?

A: Golf teaches fairness, social, mental, and physical skills that will last a lifetime. Golf has allowed me to play with many different people of all backgrounds, but, I treasure the experience of playing a round of golf with my childhood hero, Marques Haynes, Harlem Globetrotters point guard who was the first person to dribble a basketball behind his back in a game of professional basketball.

Q: Who are the other three people in your dream foursome?

A: Tiger Woods, Steph Curry and Greg Anthony.

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