Column: A South Los Angeles haven where Black youths can learn golf
In the middle of South Los Angeles, at a golf course located on Charlie Sifford Drive, a new generation of Black golfers showed up to display passion and commitment to learning and mastering the sport. One by one, boys and girls as young as 3 years old arrived carrying golf clubs.
Each had an inspiring story to tell while attending the Cameron Champ Foundation Junior Clinic at Chester Washington Golf Course.
There was 13-year-old Pierre Campa. He was 18 months old when the Campa family from Riverside adopted him in Haiti just days after that country’s destructive 2010 earthquake. At 5, he saw a movie on Netflix titled “The Short Game” about the best 7-year-old golfers competing at a Pinehurst Resort golf course in North Carolina. Suddenly he was hitting a ball in the house with a plastic flute. His father figured out he was trying to play golf. The rest is history.
Campa can drive a ball 250 yards, plays in junior tournaments and hangs out at a golf course in Jurupa Hills. He became a U.S. citizen, loves PGA star Jordan Spieth and wants to keep playing golf. His father, Eddie, has even learned the sport. “I learned to be a good caddy,” he said.
There was 14-year-old Alysa Davis of Palos Verdes. A freshman at Peninsula High, she has been playing golf for nine years. Her red acrylic french tip finger nails make you want to watch closely as she putts. Davis said she loves “how golf is different” and how every course offers a challenge.
“I see a lot more young people my age on golf courses than when I was young,” she said.
There were the Young brothers, 13-year-old Kholin and 15-year-old Hunter, the latter of whom plays basketball and golf for Loyola High. “I like how peaceful it is,” Hunter said of the sport.
His younger brother said he appreciated the concentration required to succeed in golf. “I like swinging the club,” Kholin said. “I like the focus on getting better and trusting yourself.”
There was the Ibrahim family from Culver City. Three boys and three girls ages 3 to 17 being trained by their enthusiastic father, Rashid, who ran middle-distance races growing up in Somalia and discovered golf could unite his children in one sport. Yes, they’ve damaged the family apartment, hitting walls, TVs and windows while practicing golf. The 3-year-old has to be sent outside because he’s too dangerous with a golf ball. The two eldest siblings play golf for Culver City High. Another will enroll there next year.
Ask the six kids who’s the best putter in the family and they all claim to be No. 1.
“It’s me, “14-year-old Siham insisted.
Dozens of youth golfers came to the clinic to learn tips and meet Champ, who grew up in Sacramento and is on the PGA Tour. Champ wants to bring a golf academy to the Chester Washington Golf Course. The community lost a year-round junior golf program more than two years ago when First Tee dropped out. A charitable organization, Tee Divas and Tee Dudes, has been supporting the effort to help youth golfers in South Los Angeles.
“If you can reach kids young at golf, that’s when you can keep them,” said Jenny Bethune, chairwoman of Tee Divas and Tee Dudes.
What’s clear is there’s an interest to play golf among inner-city teenagers. They just need people willing to teach them the game and provide an opportunity to play.
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