Never in the state of Georgia had a squad from Atlanta Public Schools won the state title in golf. Never in the history of Georgia had all Black squad done so, either. This past summer, however, Drew Charter School smashed both barriers. According to the team’s coach, Joe Weems, there is no football at Drew — golf is king. Having won the state championships, these kings were crowned on Tuesday when they received their state championship rings.
When the Drew squad showed up at the Southern Landings course in Warner Robins to play, their followers recalled seeing, perhaps, one other Black golfer out there. You might say they stood out like a sore thumb due to their color but it was their play that distinguished them, in the end. They played so well, in fact, that they outscored the two-time defending state champions by more than 15 strokes. That much color being that dominant on a golf course in Georgia brings back memories of Tiger Woods in 1997, when he beat runner-up Tom Kite by 12 strokes in the Masters, played annually in Augusta.
A good number of the young men on the team got their start playing with The First Tee of East Lake program, which helps youngsters get started in the game. Golf has, historically, been less than accommodating to Black people. Charlie Sifford became the first Black golfer to become a member of the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) in 1961, despite the fact that he’d played professionally since 1948 and the PGA had existed since 1916. Sifford played in tournaments organized by the United Golf Association before joining the PGA. The United Golf Association was a Black association of golfers who operated during Jim Crow. Even when Sifford did join the PGA, he was constantly subjected to racial abuse and endless threats.
Two of the three seniors from the Drew championship team are currently playing college golf. For the squad members that return this year, hopes are high. No matter what happens in the 2020 season, Drew Charter School has given us all a moment to take pride in and we tip our hat to them.