The Advocates Pro Golf Association Tour returns to TPC Scottsdale Champions Course for the second year showing off the best diverse talent in golf. The two-day, 36-hole tournament event tees off Monday.

For 12 years the APGA set out on tour to grow the game in minority communities that can’t afford to keep up with the sport’s lofty expenses.

APGA veteran and Phoenix resident Doug Smith has played on the tour since its genesis and tries to play a couple of events each year.

“We have to make our industry look and feel like America,” Smith said.  “We’re gonna need people with varying backgrounds and different communities to lead this new era.”

Recreational golfers in the U.S. are about 72% majority white according to a 2018 Statistica report.

Willie Mack III

Willie Mack III at the APGA Tour at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida, July of, 2020. It was on the Slammer & Squire course. Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA Tour

Smith said there’s an invisible veil that acts as exclusionary tactics keeping non-white golfers out of the game.

“Who can spend $10,000 a month to chase their dream?” Smith said. “Even if you have the ability, it’s impossible to play golf on the tour.”

While perhaps the most prominent golfer, Tiger Woods, is Black, he’s only one of few on the PGA Tour. Smith said the “Tiger boom” after Woods gained popularity early in his career greatly missed the opportunity to grow the game.

Many minorities who were inspired by Woods in the late ’90s but couldn’t keep up with golf’s financial requirements, Smith said.

A little more than 10 years later, the APGA stepped in to bridge the gap.

Rather than spending thousands to qualify for the PGA tour, golfers can build their skills on a tour without having to choose between their professional golf aspirations and their financial stability.

As opposed to the PGA Tour, the APGA events often involve a fraternity culture including splitting hotel costs and carpooling, according to Smith.

“We’re all chasing the same dream,” he said.  “When you have that like-mindedness with somebody; you have an eternal bond.”

That bond keeps Smith as active as possible in the AGPA at 36-years-old. That along with his desire to foster diversity in the sport. Smith said the efforts are starting to see the fruits of its labor with the generation of golfers including Kamaiu Johnson who made his PGA debut in February.

Kamaiu Johnson

Kamaiu Johnson hits a tee shot on the first hole during the final round of an APGA Tour event on the Slammer & Squire Course at World Golf Village on July 10, 2020 in Saint Augustine, Florida. (Photo: Keyur Khamar/Getty Images)

Johnson, who is Black, looks to repeat in Scottsdale after coming off his first APGA event win in Las Vegas. Smith said the APGA helped develop Johnson’s stroke to play amongst the best.

“He gained so much knowledge on how to play the game at the highest level. Now he’s almost unbeatable,” Smith said.

Though, Smith jokes that he has a desert advantage over Johnson and others playing courses around the Valley regularly. While he hopes to finish on top he won’t be too audacious in his expectations, but he said he’ll definitely make the top five.

No matter who closes the event with the lowest score in Scottsdale, it’s another win for the tour.

“As the tour continues to grow, you’re going to see more people get opportunities that can change their life and change the trajectory of the game of golf amongst disenfranchised people,” he said.



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