Monday, April 13, 2009

Teen blazing trail for female African-American golfers

Mariah Stackhouse’s rise to prominence provides a handy roadmap for African-Americans trying to reach the top levels of golf, but also reveals just how many obstacles there are along the way.Mariah Stackhouse, who just turned 15, has already climbed as high as No. 29 in the American Junior Golf Association’s national female rankings and currently stands 33rd.

In a sport desperately lacking in African-Americans outside of Tiger Woods, Stackhouse certainly stands out. Having just turned 15, she’s already climbed as high as No. 29 in the American Junior Golf Association’s national female rankings and currently stands 33rd, making her the top-rated black player on either the girls or boys list.

“If I get an opportunity to play professional golf,” she said, “I’d definitely like to give that a try.”
Her rise to prominence provides a handy roadmap for African-Americans trying to reach the top levels of golf, but also reveals just how many obstacles there are along the way.

“It’s a big financial investment and a huge sacrifice,” said her father, Ken Stackhouse. “I’ve known (African-Americans) who played before us, and their concerns were always the same. They never really got all the support they needed financially. As a consequence, they were never able to rise to the level Mariah has. Fortunately, she had support early enough to make a difference.”

For Mariah, it started with a doting father — “I was always a daddy’s girl,” she said unabashedly — who loved golf and willing to spend the time to teach it to his daughter, beginning at age 2. Stackhouse also has a job in the residential construction and design business that allows him to take time off when Mariah is playing tournaments during the spring and summer.
“I know most people aren’t as lucky as we are,” he said, relaxing with his daughter on the patio at the Braelinn Golf Club in this links-oriented suburb southwest of Atlanta.

Even with those built-in advantages, the Stackhouses still needed a hand from others. A local pro, King Simmons, allowed Mariah to hone her skills on several Atlanta city courses, free of charge. Then Ralph Boston, who won an Olympic golf medal in the long jump at the 1960 Rome Games, met Mariah and her father at a local tournament. Impressed by their passion for the game, he hooked them up with a prominent golf course owner who operated a club where Boston was a member. That allowed Mariah to practice and play at high-quality layouts around the metro area, minus the huge cost.

1 comment:

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