By Stacey M. Brown, NNPA Newswire’s Chief National Correspondent
If there ever was a perfect marriage between a corporate sponsor and an alphabet soup organization in golf, the Wells Fargo Championship at TPC Potomac Avenal Farm provided such a bond.
Wells Fargo, the namesake of the championship and one of the world’s most prolific financial institutions, is once again embroiled in controversy over accusations of discriminatory mortgage policies and lending practices against its black clients.
Meanwhile, the PGA Tour has worked hard to ensure that, after decades of anti-black behavior, it has slowly and relatively quietly become one of the more inclusive sports in America – if not globally.
Both entities have established a working relationship with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the trade association of American newspapers and more than 230 black-owned media companies.
Together, both entities work to change the negative optics that they both understand responsible for their reputation.
In tournaments held outside of Washington, D.C., the inclusiveness of the game proved recognizable in key if not yet places on the course itself, with Howard University’s Greg Odom Jr. emerged as the only black player to have competed in a field of 156.
In the exclusive ‘Executive Club’, where corporate citizens have great views of the 16th and 17th holes, is a great mix of about 525 patrons.
They chatted about golf, dined on meals, swallowed Bud Lite, Stella Artois, and Coca-Cola, and enjoyed a full bar.
Interestingly, the large and exclusive tent highlighted how golf has changed color.
Daniel, a DC attorney, said as Stewart Sink miscalculated, when Stewart Sink spoiled a bird who had dressed 16 times, while other heavy rain emptied a seating area outside the tent.
Daniel did not want to use his last name because a rival law firm had provided him with expensive tickets to the executive club.
“I have loved this game forever but I could never understand, even as a rich white man, why there was no effort or the idea that having black people, all people, would make it more attractive,” Daniel said.
Even with Odom—who had not had enough time to plunge into leading Howard University to the PGA Works Collegiate Championships the day before—fail to find success, there were many opportunities to realize the newfound inclusivity that golf has to offer.
Near the Wells Fargo Welcome Center in Avenal Farms, representatives of African American banks greeted customers.
They helped the thousands of fans in attendance find their way to and from the parking lots, hospitality areas, the course itself, and the shuttle bus.
Ticket takers, traffic enforcers, and executives worked while many took the time to talk golf.
When Montgomery County, Maryland, Denny McCarthy walked off the field, a small group of cheerleaders who braved early morning elements cheered.
That small group included Daryl McKinley, an African American who worked for a bank renamed Wells Fargo.
“First off, I’m glad the tournaments are here because I live about 30 minutes from here,” McKinley confirmed. “But seeing McKinley representing Maryland and Odom representing Howard University and all of the HBCU colleges is exciting on different levels.”
McKinley explained that having McCarthy, who is white, and Odom, a black man, encouraged many like him.
“Denny’s from here,” McKinley explained further, “so it lets you know that this area can produce champions.” “Then you have Greg, a black guy, a Howard University guy who does what he does and shines a spotlight on us in this game. What else do you need to see to be convinced that the doors are now wide open for everyone in this game.”
Although Odom missed the cut, it wasn’t just the amateurs who struggled with weather issues. Veteran Sergio Garcia battled both the agents and officials after hitting a tee-shaped shot that veered off the rolling terrain at Avignal Farm.
Garcia became frustrated with the referee after a penalty was assessed for taking too much time searching for his compromised ball.
Players are allowed three minutes to locate the ball once they reach the general area where they hit it.
“Do you want me to swim across the river?” Garcia barked at the charge. “I wasn’t looking for the ball there. I was looking for the ball as soon as I got to that side. Does that make sense?”
This moment also offered a glimpse of a change in golf for some.
“They never used to argue,” said Alexis Battersby, who attended the event with a group of other women. “But it’s fun because the game feels more realistic to us,” she said.
Battersby, who said she would be attending the entire weekend, joined a group of 12 black women for the tournament.
Meanwhile, attorney Daniel, inside the executive club, offered a course for the Wells Fargo and the PGA Tour.
When he told Wells Fargo to provide the Black Press with unlimited access to the event, he nodded in approval.
“This is a start,” he emphasized. “They have to do a lot of things to improve access to their African American customers and engage blacks the right way by doing more with you guys (black press).”
He said the efforts of the PGA Tour are becoming more visible.
“I had Odom play here, and I’m sure they would like to see more people of color on the course,” Daniel said.
“But I also realize that in corporate offices and other places on the PGA Tour, there are African Americans – men, women and who knows, LGBTQ people, working in important jobs.
“But, if I am you (Black Press), I keep pushing. I never get complacent, and neither should African Americans until there is concrete evidence of continued efforts and that the word ‘diversity’ is no longer necessary in our vocabulary.”
Post-PGA Tour and Wells Fargo Embrace Golf’s Color of Change at TPC Potomac debuted on BlackPressUSA.