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HBCU golf exhibition tournament to be played at Quail Hollow on Monday

quail hollow.jpeg
Quail Hollow Club
The Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte.

Next month, the President’s Cup will be played at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. As part of the event’s media day on Monday, Cup officials are kicking off an inaugural exhibition tournament that will give African American golfers from six Historically Black Colleges and Universities a chance to compete against each other at Quail Hollow. The tournament is named after Charlotte native Charlie Sifford, who died in 2015. He was the first African American to play on the PGA Tour and win a PGA tournament.

The Charlie Sifford Centennial Cup will feature golfers from the top Division I HBCUs — Howard, Florida A&M, Alabama State and Texas Southern universities and Division II HBCUs Livingstone College and the event’s local host school Johnson C. Smith University. Adam Sperling, the executive director of the PGA Tour explains how the participating schools were selected.

Adam Sperling: As the host, Johnson C. Smith was always going to be a part of the competition, so we decided that the way teams would qualify is via the Golfstat season rankings. And the top four Division I programs would join Johnson C. Smith and the top Division II program to round out the six. And that allows us to split these six programs into two teams of 12 golfers. So three programs will be on team Charlie Sifford. The other three programs will be on team James Black, another influential local pioneer in the game of golf here in Charlotte. Mr. James Black is local to Charlotte, has been an incredible supporter of the game, played with Charlie and we're excited to welcome him as well.

Gwendolyn Glenn: And Charlie Sifford would have been 100 this year, hence the centennial in the name.

Sperling: Correct. And the PGA Tour has been celebrating the centennial all year long by having a flag each week during PGA Tour events. And I think heightened celebrations during the Genesis Invitational, which is the event that Charlie won, which was the L.A. Open in 1969 during the memorial in Ohio, which — Charlie moved to Ohio. And then also at the Travelers outside Hartford, which of course, is where he had his first win in 1967 at the Greater Hartford Open.

Glenn: You don't have a lot of African Americans in professional golf historically. Do you think that this particular event — that it is getting a lot of respect? And do you think that it will get a lot of people who are interested in actually coming out and watching the live event?

Sperling: Hard to say. I think our focus was on creating an experience for these 24 student-athletes. I think primarily there are very few people who have access to play golf at a top 100 private property like Quail Hollow Club. There is even fewer people who are able to compete on a property like this. It's actually limited to 156 professionals each year participating in the annual PGA Tour event, and then the 24 professionals that will be participating in our Presidents Cup at the end of the month. Then you go even one further subset, of how many people have the opportunity to participate in a competition on this property, in this setup — Presidents Cup routing, over 500,000 square foot of infrastructure throughout the property. And then it's really limited to just those 24 professionals coming to compete in the Presidents Cup. So so our focus was on welcoming these 24 student-athletes, giving them a memorable opportunity, and doing so in a setting where we could celebrate Charlie Sifford's contributions to the game and everything that he's meant to so many. It's, I think, a tremendous opportunity and experience for these six programs and the four young men on each team who have the opportunity to create a memory that I'm sure will be with them for the rest of their lives.

Glenn: We don't see a lot of, again, a lot of black golfers and these are all golfers from HBCUs. What do you think and what would you hope that they would take away from this and other aspiring African-American golfers seeing an event like this?

Sperling: I'm less focused on what the 24 student-athletes take away from this than I am on what the rest of us do. In that, we're trying to celebrate their success as collegiate athletes. We're trying to provide a great event to serve as that celebration. I think the takeaway is really for the rest of us to look at things differently and think about how we can use access to venues or platforms to promote in a way that helps us move forward, not only in collegiate golf or underrepresented minorities in the game but just in general when we look across DEI in all business practices and as being a part of a larger community.

Glenn: Will you have a big celebration for Sifford? Something really special?

Sperling: We're excited to welcome Charlie Sifford Jr. here throughout the weekend. He's hitting a celebratory first tee shot on Monday morning, which I think will be a moving moment for all of us. We're excited about having him back for the Presidents Cup at the end of September. So I think there will be a lot of moments with Charlie Sifford, Jr. that will be sharing his memories and impressions. And I think the time that the students will spend with him will be equally as valuable as that which the rest of us are able to share.

Adam Sperling is the executive director of the PGA Tour. The Charlie Sifford Centennial Cup at Quail Hollow takes place Monday.

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Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.