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JOSEPH PHILLIPS: FUTURE JACKSON PARK GOLF COURSE ENDEAVORS TO HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON MINORITY STUDENTS FROM SCHOOLS IN THE COMMUNITY
First Published in Hyde Park Herald on May 23, 2018
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.
“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.
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.
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.