Catch The Flying Tiger

African American interest in golf is growing rapidly, but how do we profit from the windfall?

In 1994, total spending by golfers topped $16.3 billion. That includes $2.2 billion on dubs; $2.2 billion on equipment including bags, balls and apparel; and $10 billion on membership and miscellaneous fees.

The NGF says golfers who play a minimum of one to seven rounds a year spend about $183 annually on equipment, green fees and apparel. A quick calculation using NGF data reveals black golfers are likely spending a minimum of $124 million on the sport annually. Yet try tabulating how many African Americans are actually making money at the business end of golf and you might not need to use more than both hands. So if blacks are indeed being drawn to the game in growing numbers, why aren’t more African Americans positioned to capitalize on the swelling interest?

The impact of the growing number of blacks spending on the sport hasn’t been lost at BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine, which now sponsors the B.E./Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge held at the Doral Golf & Tennis Resort in Miami. The degree of financial participation in the event is just one example of the money African Americans are now willing to spend on the sport. Tournament organizers estimate 1,200 participants from across the country for this year’s tournament. It’s estimated that at least $650,000 is spent in hotel room fees and another $450,000 on airline costs. In addition, BE spends $1.6 million organizing the five- day event.

“Golf is a very big business, but it’s also highly fragmented,” says Joe Beditz, president and CEO of the NGF. “It’s a very tough business to jump into and grow.” Nevertheless an increasing number of entrepreneurs are making the attempt. And as the opportunities slowly expand, BE found several African Americans in different arenas within the golf industry looking to make their mark and secure a small piece of the multibillion- dollar golf industry for themselves.

Tucked away in a rural enclave of East Canton, Ohio, the Clearview Golf Course is like most others. Its 18 holes, spread across 130 rolling green acres, are postcard perfect. On a given spring day, you’re likely to find a good number of golfers, from rank amateurs to wannabe pros, young, old and mostly white–on the course attempting to perfect their swing. Not until William Powell, the architect and owner of the course, motors up on his golf cart do you realize the difference at Clearview starts at the top. Bill Powell is black.

“I had the God-given ability to take this piece of land and see something here other people didn’t see; the same way someone else can create something from a lump of clay,” says Powell, whose gruff demeanor has only been accentuated over his 80 years. “We are competitive here. We’re not a black course. We are a golf course competing with other people.”

As the first and only golf course completely designed and built by an African American, Clearview was born from a simple inspiration. Powell was tired of being denied access to “public”

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