Golf News Magazine May 2019

Page 18


A Conversation with Tiffany Fitzgerald, Founder of “Black Girls Golf” By Judd Spicer Exclusive GOLFNEWS Interview The far too uniform game, industry and culture of golf is in need of disruption. It’s also in need of people like Tiffany Fitzgerald. Aiming to pave a bridge of further accessibility for African-American women to enjoy the game’s fruits, socialization and networking, Atlanta-based Fitzgerald founded Black Girls Golf (BGG) in 2011. In the years’ since, BGG (blackgirlsgolf. net) has grown to more than 4,000 members across 10 countries, including a distinct presence in Southern California. “I think it’s important to recognize that African-American women do have an appetite for golf, once exposed to it or given access to it,” says Fitzgerald. “And yet, golf doesn’t really know African-American women; so it’s a relationship that we need to cultivate and we’ve worked to introduce these two worlds.” With a goal of eventually hosting official events across the country, Fitzgerald and BGG concurrently work to break down cultural barriers that have long equated to low golf participation numbers in the female, African-American community. “Sometimes, it’s just a matter of making people aware of what they just don’t know,” Fitzgerald adds. “What we’ve tried to do isn’t confrontational; it’s making the industry aware.” In a recent conversation with Golf News Magazine, Fitzgerald further shared her organization’s aims, her impressions on sport-to-race relations in our country and why PGA Hall of Famer Renee Powell deserves more love. Golf News Magazine: What was the impetus for BGG? Tiffany Fitzgerald: I initially started Black Girls Golf because, selfishly, I wanted other women to golf with. In my own experience getting involved in the game, it was humiliating, it was difficult, and I

was unaware of a lot of things that taking a five-week ‘Get Golf Ready’ class just didn’t prepare me for. So, I wanted to make sure that other women didn’t have this same experience. It’s also a way to build community, to build a bridge to the game and to give women a safe space to learn about the golf. Sometimes, just playing golf as a woman, you can run into some challenges. GNM: Sounds like your own introduction to the game was a little rocky. T.F.: I was totally humiliated. I didn’t know the etiquettes. Yes, I took those classes, but that didn’t get me prepared for all the unspoken things that happen on a golf course — things as simple as not walking across somebody’s putting line or knowing where to park your cart. So, it was embarrassing. GNM: Do you think BGG has been well accepted by everybody? T.F.: There are people who believe we’ve come to a place in this country that we have not yet actually come to. Some people see what I’m doing as a slap in the face to a world they’ve gotten comfortable in. GNM: Last year, we had the pleasure of visiting with Azucena Maldonado, founder of the SoCal-based Latina Golfers Association. Seems like you two may be simpatico. T.F.: I absolutely love her, and we consider ourselves sisters with her organization. We face some of the same challenges, the same frustrations with the industry, and we’re dealing with similar communities of women. We’re aiming to do something together, and have talked about it for a few years. But it can’t be forced; we’re just working toward the right opportunity to work together. GNM: Additionally, we also enjoyed a recent conversation with Sandra Thompson, whose unfortunate incident of discrimination at a York, Pennsylvania golf course gained national attention. Are you familiar with that episode?

18 Golf News Magazine | May 2019

Tiffany Fitzgerald, leader of 4,000 avid golfers. (Photo Courtesy of Black Girls Golf)

T.F.: Yes, and that incident didn’t surprise me. I’ve had incidents on the golf course that I’ve developed a thick skin for. I’ve faced all kinds of ignorance over the years on the course. For people to have been surprised by that incident is shocking to me. And I think it’s very telling of how far we have not come in this country and in the golf industry. The fact that this happened just underscores the importance of organizations like Black Girls Golf and the Latina Golfers Association. In order for women to feel safe, respected and welcome on a golf course – we can’t stand for incidents like this. We can’t just label this a ‘one-off.’ This happens in a lot of places, and I think it’s wrong for people to rely on the African-American community to either bear the responsibility or just turn the other cheek. The onus falls on everybody.

Visit Us Online: