Thursday September 28, 2023

Steph Curry Is On a Mission to Make Golf More Equitable

  • Underrated Golf gives junior golfers from underserved backgrounds the opportunity to compete.
  • The Howard University men's golf team has won back-to-back PGA Works Collegiate Championships.
A view of Steph Curry on the golf course with a Howard University golf player.
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When Steph Curry’s business venture company SC30 Inc. researched socioeconomic imbalances in golf, it found that although kids of Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous backgrounds make up 30% of the United States’ youth population, they only represented 1.8% of junior golfers.

Curry and his team have come up with two solutions: Underrated Golf and the establishment of Howard University’s golf program.

Underrated began by recruiting around 100 top junior golfers from AJGA events for the main tour, while still allowing local golfers to play their way into the field at each tournament. The inaugural 2023 season consisted of five events around the country, culminating with the Curry Cup, going on from Aug. 20-23 at Lake Merced Golf Club outside San Francisco.

The players have all of their expenses paid, amounting to about $4.5 million, per SC30 secretary-chairman Suresh Singh, who adds that Curry “wrote all the checks” for the first season. Subsequent seasons are expected to be supported by partnerships with companies like Cisco, which is fronting the Dell Curry Scholarship — amounting to $25,000 each given to one boy and one girl.

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Outside of the opportunity to play competitive golf, Underrated provides players professional insights from major executives to PGA Tour player Collin Morikawa and music mogul DJ Khaled. It’s also a recruiting tool to play at the next level.

“It has become pretty popular for a lot of HBCU programs to be able to go see, in one fell swoop, some students that could potentially wear your uniform and play for your program,” Howard University director of golf Sam Puryear tells FOS. “To me, that’s the highlight of what they’ve done. They’ve basically now raised the bar and given access to a lot of those that would not have had the access upfront.”

The veteran coach, who won a national championship with Stanford and a Big Ten championship with Michigan State, was brought into the program as part of Curry’s six-year, seven-figure investment to launch the university’s first Division I golf program (it had previously only fielded Division II and club teams).

His impact in Washington D.C. was immediate: The Bison have won back-to-back men’s PGA Works Collegiate Championships — the national championship for HBCU golf — including by 57 strokes this season. PWCC was televised for the first time this year on Golf Channel and Peacock.

Howard came up just short of making it to the NCAA golf championships this season, but that goal is front and center of ESPN’s new docuseries “Why Not Us: Howard Golf,” premiering this week on ESPNU and ESPN+.

“By building a championship caliber golf program, Howard University is not only shifting the landscape in collegiate golf, but these teams are torch bearers for the next generation of young golf fans coming along behind them,” ESPN+ Originals producer Jalaine Edwards said in a statement.

“I feel like it’s bigger than us,” says Howard player Everett Whiten Jr. “Just thinking about our tournament schedule that coach puts us in, we’re playing with the best of the best. We’re playing with the Stanfords, the Oregons, the Alabamas, and we’re getting all these opportunities because of the contribution that Steph made.

“It helps get a good image for HBCU golf and gives us a chance to show that we can compete.”

Singh sees golf as a “vehicle” to higher education for kids from underserved communities.

Curry has taken steps for Howard golf to fund itself following the end of his commitment, and Underrated plans to expand internationally with the financial help of its partners.

“We’re able to provide opportunities for our student athletes to go to school, and a lot of them are on scholarships,” PWCC director Scooter Clark says. “If it were not for golf programs, many of them would not have the opportunity to attend college.”

“The last time, I believe, golf was impacted like this was Tiger [Woods]. Steph’s next,” says Singh. “Steph’s doing more for underserved communities and to grow junior golf than any professional golfer is today.”

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