JOSEPH PHILLIPS

Sports Writer

First Published in Hyde Park Herald on May 23, 2018

 

Chicago, IL

Proponents of creating a new professional quality golf course out of

the 27 holes in Jackson and South Shore parks, say that it will not

only impact schools in the surrounding area but spark a renewed

interest for the sport of golf from young African Americans.

Al DeBonnett, chairperson of the Jackson Park Golf and Community

Leadership Advisory Council believes that the course, designed by

Tiger Woods’ TGR Design Firm, could be ready by the year 2021.

Al DeBonnett

 

“We have two of the top young golfers in the city of Chicago, both are

African American and live in the Woodlawn community,” said DeBonnett about the benefits of having a newly renovated golf course on

Chicago’s south side where minority youth can play. “[The students] are

going to have resources that they’ve never seen before throughout the

High Schools and CPS [Chicago Public Schools]. It will benefit [all]

golf programs.”  According to DeBonnett, the future course will provide schools in the

surrounding area such as Kenwood and Hyde Park with future career

opportunities, summer jobs as caddies, scholarships to colleges and much more.

 

“Regarding the opportunity, I believe schools such as Kenwood Academy

[will be provided with] more playing opportunity and access to the

courses,” said Genesis Taylor, girls golf coach at Kenwood Academy

High School about the opportunity the newly renovated golf course will

provide for the school’s program. “We just started last summer, we are

truly in the infancy stages [of] our program.”

 

“Hyde Park has a golf club, but we haven’t been approved for a golf

program [yet],” said coach Alfonzo Lewis, athletic director of Hyde

ParkAcademy High School. “Hopefully it will be a positive for our

school and our program. I believe it will be a win-win situation.”

 

In addition to DeBonnett’s desire to encourage more minorities to

participate in the sport of golf, a recent 2018 study by the National Golf Foundation

on participation revealed that there was a growing number

of minorities and females becoming first-time golfers nationwide.

Junior Golfers with the First Tee of Greater Chicago at South Shore

According to the study, the number of newcomers to the game continued

at a four-year increase, rising to 2.6 million participants during

that period. These beginners were a more diverse group than the

overall golf population stating that 35 percent were women (compared

to 24 percent overall), 26 percent were non-caucasian (18 percent

overall) and 70 percent were under the age of 35 (37 percent overall).

 

Dion Madkins, a Woodlawn native nearing certification as a PGA of

America Professional, stated he started the “Hit it Straight Golf Academy”

in 2016 to help introduce more African American boys and girls to the game of golf.

Madkins believes that the game of golf can help other young black men

in the city in need of direction.

Dion Madkins at Jackson Park Golf Course

 

Stating, “All it takes is an opportunity,” Madkins said. “That’s the

heart of the South Side,” he pointed out. “It would

bring opportunities, as far as caddie programs, where you can go get

an everyday normal kid, bring him to the golf course, teach him

etiquette, show him how to talk and keep his pants pulled up.”

 

In December of 2016, city officials announced that Tiger Woods’ TGR Design would take the lead in remaking the two-lakefront golf courses into a

course capable of hosting PGA Tour events such as the BMW Championship

in the near future.