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Massachusetts’ role in making golf more inclusive

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For decades, some players have struggled to come out of the shadows in a sport that hasn’t always been known for inclusion. With the US Open underway in Brookline, golf is in the spotlight in Massachusetts. But, for decades, some gamers struggled to come out of the shadows. “Golf has changed over the past century,” said Peter Roby, a reporter for the Bay State Banner who recently researched black history and golf. “It has never been a game for everyone. But I think there are figures that have made their way.” Figures like Francis Ouimet, a working-class boy and son of an immigrant, who borrowed $25 to play at the US Open in 1913. That was the first time it had been held at Brookline. Ouimet shocked the golf world and won. “It really was a class change that he was making and he won the game for the American public to play,” Roby said. “He launched an entire era of amateur golf in the United States.” But for black golfers trying to find success on the course, Roby said the road has been rocky. For years, they played in a separate league specifically for black golfers. “It’s the story of discrimination in America,” said Roby. “The PGA tour had a whites-only clause and so you couldn’t be a member, you couldn’t get a player’s card to play the PGA Tour if you were a black man until 1961.” Roby says there has been progress, fueled in part by courses like Franklin Park, which is the second oldest public course in the country. “It’s the public courses, in golf, where people are really learning and practicing the game and where the American public is playing,” he explained. “It’s about being accessible. Located where we are in the Roxbury, Dorchester area and accessible to the community that lives here. It makes a big difference.” The question for Roby and others is what the future holds. “Tiger Woods is prolific today and really identifies with representation in the sport of golf and I still think there is a question: how many more will follow Tiger Woods?” Roby wondered. “Is it a trend or is it a problem?”

For decades, some players have struggled to come out of the shadows in a sport that hasn’t always been known for inclusion.

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With the US Open underway in Brookline, golf is in the spotlight in Massachusetts. But, for decades, some gamers struggled to come out of the shadows.

“Golf has changed over the past century,” said Peter Roby, a reporter for the Bay State Banner who recently researched black history and golf. “It has never been a game for everyone. But I think there are figures that have made their way.”

Figures like Francis Ouimet, a working-class boy and son of an immigrant, who borrowed $25 to play the US Open in 1913. That was the first time it was played at Brookline. Ouimet shocked the golf world and won.

“It really was a class change that he was making and he won the game for the American public to play,” Roby said. “He launched an entire era of amateur golf in the United States.”

But for black golfers trying to find success on the course, Roby said the road has been rocky. For years, they played in a separate league specifically for black golfers.

“It’s the story of discrimination in America,” said Roby. “The PGA Tour had a whites-only clause and so you couldn’t be a member, you couldn’t get a player’s card to play the PGA Tour if you were a black man until 1961.”

Roby says there has been progress, fueled in part by courses like Franklin Park, which is the second oldest public course in the country.

“It’s the public courses, in golf, where people are really learning and practicing the game and where the American public is playing,” he explained. “It’s about being accessible. Located where we are in the Roxbury, Dorchester area and accessible to the community that lives here. It makes a big difference.”

The question for Roby and others is what does the future hold?

“Tiger Woods is prolific today and he really identifies with representation in the sport of golf and I still think there is a question: how many more will follow Tiger Woods?” Roby wondered. “Is it a trend or is it a problem?”

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