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Home > the golf craze health and networking

      

IT'S a craze. It's a sensation. In some cases, it's an obsession, Whatever it is, golf is sweeping Black America off its feet.

No major social gathering is complete without a golf outing.

No major convention is complete without a golf tournament. And some major weddings schedule prenuptial tee-off times for the bride and groom and their guests.

Interestingly and surprisingly, certain NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball stars spend almostas much time on the golf course as on the playing field. Some, in fact make contract decisions based on the golf facilities of competing cities. NBA superstar Jason Kidd, who will be a free agent this summer, told Golf Digest that he would not rule out golf as a factor in his decision about where to play next season.

The same or even greater passion is found in Hollywood, where some movie stars put into their contracts that location sites must provide easy access to major golf courses. There are even stars like Johnny Mathis, who spend more time on the golf course than on their night jobs.

"It's pretty much a daily routine for me," Mathis told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I'm finally at the point where I can work it out financially, golf-wise," he said, laughing.

Traditionally known as "the White man's game," despite the fact that a Black man, Dr. George Grant, invented the golf tee, golf is increasingly becoming less male and less White, in part because of the Tiger Woods phenomenon, in part because of networking possibilities, in part because it is a fun way to stay in shape.

Experts say that golfers who walk 18 holes once or twice a week improve their health, and golf is the game of choice for a number of African-American physicians and health care professionals. "Usually when I walk and play a round" teaching pro Marvin Childress says, "I lose about four pounds."

According to the National Golf Foundation, 10 percent or 2.4 million of today's golfers are minorities, and nearly 1 million are Black, representing an 18.7 percent increase from 1995 to 2001.

Apart from the fact that the game is fun and challenging, some Blacks are turning to it for more practical reasons, particularly because golf provides a great deal of access and networking opportunities that are not always readily available in the boardroom.

Jeffrey Pina, now a senior vice president of Nova Chemicals in Pittsburgh, learned this the hard way when he was invited to play golf with his boss and had to turn him down because he didn't know how to play. Pina made sure that never happened again. After a crash course, he hit the links and discovered the real world. "I saw how business was conducted on golf courses. I saw how relationships and trusts were built." What surprised him was how much business is conducted on the course. "The account executives delivered all the news they needed to deliver instead of having a business meeting, and it was done in an environment that was more cordial and far more supportive, because you're playing a game as well as conducting business."

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