Charting a New Course

The University of Maryland Eastern Shore becomes the first HBCU to receive a PGA Professional Golf Management Program.

Beginning in fall of 2008, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) will become the 20th university in the nation — and the first historically Black university (HBCU) — certified by the PGA to offer a Professional Golf Management Program. “To have the distinction of 20 and 1 is not bad,” says Joe Steranka, CEO of the PGA about UMES’ recent certification.

The PGA/PGM™ University Program is a four-and-a-half-year structured college curriculum for aspiring PGA professionals. The educational program is accredited by The PGA of America and includes extensive classroom studies, internship experience and player development, providing students the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the golf industry.

Dr. Thelma B. Thompson, president of UMES, said she was proud of her staff for helping her carry out one of her most important goals for the university. “When I first came onto this campus six years ago, I remember thinking how pristine and beautiful it was and how it looked like a golf course. And that is really when I first had the idea that this university should be involved with the sport of golf,” Thompson says.

Furthermore, she wanted her students to be able to take advantage of the opportunities available within the $76 billion golf industry, regardless of their ethnicity or gender.

In 2004, UMES opened its Golf Academy and began offering indoor training for students, in addition to establishing its first golf class for college credit. But Thompson had an even more ambitious goal. After the university was contacted by a PGA official who had read about Thompson’s goals for the Golf Academy, she challenged her staff to help UMES become a PGA- accredited university.

 

Becoming PGA-accredited involves a 13-step process that all universities must complete to be awarded the PGM program. In addition to classroom studies, each PGA/PGM™ student is required to complete approved internships of 16 months at industry- related facilities, companies or organizations; they are also required to complete all of the requirements of The PGA of America’s Professional Golf Management Program (PGM) and pass a Playing Ability Test (PAT). Passing the PAT is achieved by scoring equal to or less than the PAT target score. Students attending a PGA/PGM™ program can graduate with a baccalaureate degree in majors that include marketing, business administration, hospitality administration, recreation and park management.

Although UMES will go down in history as the first historically Black college or university to receive a PGA-accredited program, there is a long history of involvement with golf at these institutions. According to Calvin Sinnette’s book Forbidden Fairways: African Americans and the Game of Golf, Bethune- Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fla., Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, and South Carolina State College in Orangeburg all had large vacant expanses of land that the campus community often used for golf practice in the early part of the 20th century. In 1926, nine-hole courses were opened at both Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio, and at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Ala.

In 1938, Tuskegee’s course was the site of the first HBCU Intercollegiate Golf Tournament. The tournament continued yearly until 1980. A 1995 survey of 84 HBCUs found that 22 of them had golf teams.

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