When Vernel Bennett (left) and Jacques Leandre started the United Black Golfers Association in Queens, NY, they only had one goal in mind. And that was to uplift their community and shatter stereotypes when it comes to the color of golf.
“Sometimes you don’t even get the verbal racism,” said Bennet. “It’s in the silence. That doesn’t bother me, but it could bother people. I just smile because it’s typical.”
Although the face of golf has gradually changed, just because there’s Tiger Woods, Indian golfer, Vijay Singh, or Ginger Howard, sometimes the only color you’ll find on a golf course is the green grass.
“A lot of us would like to believe we live in a post-racial America,” said Leandre, a 43-year-old Laurelton attorney who unsuccessfully ran for City Council last year. “That doesn’t exist. Any time you go into a community or setting where you’re not the majority, there are going to be some stares. Some of them are from folks curious about why you’re there. Some wonder how you can afford the game.”
The seven-member group, which formed in March, will welcome all races and genders, ranging from rookies to experts.
Monthly membership is $20 after a one-time $100 fee. The fees go toward reduced-rate lessons with Professional Golf Association-certified trainers and biweekly group trips.
Some Queens golfers teeing off at Kissena Park Golf Course Friday applauded the club’s efforts, saying they see more diversity on the city’s courses each year.
“I don’t see race,” said Bayside resident Michael Scricca, who was at the golf course with others. “It’s old-fashioned thinking, and every generation is getting smarter.”
Club in hand, golfer Marty Puntus, 72, said it all boiled down to ability.
“As long as they have the skill, the sky is the limit,” said Puntus just before a round of golf.
To learn more about the organization visit: http://unitedblackgolfers.org/