Stephen Curry, a top player in the National Basketball Association, has announced that he will make a seven-figure gift to start NCAA Division I men’s and women’s golf teams at Howard University, a Washington, D.C.-based HBCU, The Washington Post reports. Curry will fund the golf program—including a coach and three scholarships—for at least six years, starting in the 2020-21 academic year, as Howard works to secure an endowed fund to support the program in perpetuity.
Just 6 percent of collegiate golfers are Black, Latino, or Native American, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and the sport is overwhelmingly male. Golf has also historically been the backdrop for many business negotiations, “hence mostly white men making decisions,” DCist notes. Curry’s gift represents “a big opportunity for us to expose students to a game that oftentimes is played as business deals are decided,” said Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick, adding that the new golf program will be “an avenue for students who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to attend Howard University to use the game of golf to participate in that.”
Hopes of enriching an HBCU, diversifying the sport
Curry, who didn’t attend Howard University, decided to sponsor the university’s golf program after talking with Otis Ferguson, a Howard student who had to choose between playing collegiate golf at another institution or attending Howard. Curry said he and Ferguson both felt the game of golf had taught them valuable lessons “around accountability, around competition, discipline” and asserted that the creation of this new golf program “is going to go way beyond the game of golf, and way beyond Howard.”
Golf is still a difficult sport for people of color to pursue; the PGA Tour has not diversified significantly in recent years, despite the visibility and success of Tiger Woods. “It’s not a sport that is cheap for people to play, you have to travel long distances to get to golf courses, and golfers don’t get all of the ballyhoo that basketball and football players get,” Calvin Sinnette, author of Forbidden Fairways: African Americans and the Game of Golf, told The Washington Post. “As a result, the game doesn’t attract many young black people.” Less than one-third of the nation’s 100-plus HBCUs have golf teams, and a number of historically Black golf courses have closed.
Curry hopes Howard’s new golf program will help change that narrative. “No matter where you come from or what socioeconomic background you had, we all were that kid once upon a time that was just excited about finding out who they were as a person through athletics,” Curry said. “Golf has always been a game of privilege,” said Howard University Athletic Director Kery Davis. “An association with the sport can break down barriers.”