A Little Help

Forget about how to "grow the game" and just do something

How does a Black kid who dropped out of school in the eighth grade and had never, up until that point, touched a golf club in his life make it to the PGA Tour? People helped me. A woman named Jan Auger saw me swinging a stick off the fairway of a public golf course in my hometown of Tallahassee, Florida, near my grandmother’s apartment, where my “bed” was located under the kitchen table. Instead of shooing me away, she decided to show me a kind of love that few others had. 

Jan was the course’s general manager, and she thought I had some smooth action. I was afraid she was going to yell at me, but instead she pointed to the driving range and said there would be a bucket of balls and a 9-iron waiting. That day changed my life. This year, I made my fourth career start on the PGA Tour, at the Farmers Insurance Open, and won my third Advocates Pro Tour (APGA) title. 

It’s no secret that golf in the U.S. is played primarily by white people, and most golfers come from a middle- to upper-class background. It’s a sport that doesn’t create enough invitations for people of color and different economic backgrounds. I’ve seen firsthand how, as a community, Black people just kind of figure golf isn’t for us. And that’s a shame, because golf should be for as many people as possible.

Kamaiu Johnson A Little Help

Last year, I met B.J. Little, who hit the ceremonial tee shot at the Tour Championship in 2020. This young man is a great golfer, but, like me when I was a kid, he needs help. If you’re a good player with ambitious dreams, but can afford to play only public courses, your development stalls. Golf isn’t a level playing field. For those of us who don’t come from economic means, it’s hard to get access to courses that better prepare us for high-level qualifying events or college competition. Invited’s Gateway Program and the Foundation at Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina are two initiatives that are aiming to help kids like B.J., and I applaud their efforts.

But that’s big, corporate stuff. Most folks I encounter in the golf world are scared off by that whole “grow the game” thing. It can seem daunting. In my experience, people generally want to help, but they don’t know how. So here’s the easiest (and likely the best) way: Just start. Do something. 

I get it; I’m busy too. I’m out here working my tail off to achieve my dream of being a regular on the PGA Tour. But I know I’ve got to carve out some time to pay things forward. To talk to kids like B.J. and use what little spotlight and influence I have to help more kids like him get in the game.

Jan had no idea I’d end up here. She just wanted to help. So do what you can. And if you ever see a curious kid swinging a stick by a golf course, invite them to play.