On a sunny Saturday, Stephen Curry, the basketball sensation, stepped into the shoes of the golf legend, Tiger Woods, recreating a famed shot the latter had aced in the 2000 NEC Invitational. A horde of young golfers, nearly a hundred, circled around the NBA luminary, cheering him on with strategy tips and a wave of encouragement.
Following four attempts with a 9-iron from 167 yards on the 18th hole at Firestone Country Club’s South Course, Curry paused to review his performance through a fan-recorded video. Two more tries next to a plaque hailing Tiger’s historical triumph, and Curry’s shot landed on the green, evoking elated roars and celebratory fist bumps.
Curry, renowned as one of the finest shooters in basketball’s annals, was delighted by his accomplishment, something he’d dreamed of trying since his childhood days.
The athletes of the Underrated Golf Tour, gathered in Curry’s hometown of Akron, Ohio, rallied around him— a fitting salute given his monumental impact on their lives over the past year. Disturbed by the lack of diversity in the sport, Curry resolved not only to fill this void, but to pioneer change.
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In 2022, he spearheaded the launch of Underrated Golf, an initiative aimed at promoting a diverse crop of competitive golfers. Leading the charge on inclusivity, Curry also pledged in 2019 to wholly finance both the men’s and women’s golf teams at Howard University for six years.
As a result of his commendable efforts, Curry received the prestigious Ambassador of Golf Award for 2023.
Former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, the prior year’s honoree, showered Curry with congratulatory sentiments through a video message played during a celebratory dinner at Firestone Country Club.
The ‘very surreal’ honor, as described by Curry, serves as additional inspiration to continue leading his mission for diversity. This recognition closely follows Curry being distinguished as the NBA’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion earlier in the year.
However, the journey towards inclusion in golf is uphill. Curry’s Underrated Golf website points out that barely 2% of all golfers are Black or Latino. Moreover, the recent 156-player field at the U.S. Open saw no known Black players participating.
‘We’re another piece of that puzzle,’ Curry acknowledged, referring to the wider issue of a lack of diversity in golf.
Curry, however, understands the volume of work needed to establish a pipeline for diverse talent in the golfing world. His commitment remains unfazed, daunting as the task may be.
An introduction about a decade back, through a mutual friend at the Raintree Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, started Curry’s journey to reform golf’s landscape. This connection was with Will Lowery, who eventually became an ambassador for Underrated Golf.
Born in 1988 in Akron, Ohio at the Akron City Hospital, Curry spent most of his childhood in Charlotte. His father, Dell, was playing for the Cavaliers during the 1987-88 season.
Nearly two decades later, over a discussion at Curry’s home, Lowery and Curry envisioned using the latter’s platform to bring a substantial change in golf. Lowery, a media personality who pursued professional golf for two years, fully backed Curry’s endeavor when the vision turned into reality.
Will Lowery glanced at the golf participation rates among competitive Black and brown players and realized the glaring need for change. He reasoned that Curry’s influence could rewrite the narrative. ‘For diversity to truly take root in the sport, it might take an individual like Stephen and impactful initiatives like this one,’ stated Lowery.
One of the young golfers, 18-year-old Quincy Leonard, interacted with Curry during Underrated Golf’s Curry Cup competition and was inspired. Following the event, Leonard’s friends in Montgomery, Alabama, became intrigued about golf upon hearing about his interaction with Curry.
Leonard, who secured a golf scholarship at Florida A&M University, credits Underrated Golf for this opportunity.
‘When more and more people see Stephen Curry golfing, their interest in the sport grows,’ said Leonard. Curry’s work with his school, ‘I Promise’, and the impact he has left in his hometown forge a powerful connection.
He reflects on the history of the place and the thrill the young players must have felt while walking the same 18th fairway walked by so many champions before them.
According to Curry, the opportunity to give the young players a taste of what the champions experienced is ‘the coolest thing in the world.’ The response he has received from the Underrated Golf players and their families has been incredibly rewarding.
For these players, Curry’s initiative is much more than just a sport; it’s a beacon of opportunity and a challenge to prejudices.
Shyell Lowe, 17, from Plainfield, Illinois, began golfing at just 3, but only competed against another Black golfer two years ago. Lowe shared the experiences and challenges she had encountered as an African-American golfer.
‘Underrated has shown me that what I’ve faced isn’t right… Now, I feel more confident standing up for myself,’ said Lowe.
Lowe believes that with the increase in minority golfers from varying backgrounds, the game gets elevated. She looks forward to seeing more golfers who look like her on the greens.
Curry, too, wants young people of color to understand that abundant opportunities lay ahead in golf, and he’s eager to pave their way.
Yet, Curry’s work isn’t confined to golf – there is an educational aspect to this endeavor as well. Will Lowery underscored, ‘We want to be the spark that propels these kids towards a career path, whether it’s in golf or general business.
It’s about what’s next in life for them, not just golf. This initiative is all about equity, access, and opportunity.’
Amid these multifaceted pursuits, matching a shot made legendary by Tiger Woods on a renowned course makes for a sweet added bonus. After all, what better way to pay homage to the past while remaining committed to shaping the future of golf?
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