The pied piper of college golf – National Minority Junior Golf Scholarship Assn. founder and Pres. Bill Dickey

Bill Dicky More Than Just a Fairway Friend to College-Bound Youth

Thanks to megastar Tiger Woods, golf has started to shed some of its longtime image as an elitist sport.

There’s no question that now that Tiger is on the scene, the game
will be a lot more accessible to minorities. But few folk realize that
long before there was such a thing as Tigermania, Bill Dickey’s
National Minority Junior Golf Scholarship Association (NMJGSA) had
already done a lot of behind-the-scenes legwork to help pave the way
for more minorities to get involved in the sport.

In the early eighties, Dickey got the ball rolling by creating
NMJGSA. The prime purpose of the association is to generate funds to
help minority students continue their education while playing college
golf. During its fifteen-year history, NMJGA has awarded over $573,000
to more than 470 student-athletes. Scholarship amounts range from $500
to $2,500.

In addition to providing scholarship dollars, the organization also
gives financial support to Black college golf programs. To help ensure
that funds will always be available for future scholarships, the
association has also established an endowment fund of over $600,000.
Last year, eighty-four students received scholarship awards totaling
$137,410. The year prior to that, $102,000 was awarded to seventy
students.

Over the years, Dickey has seen his share of young minority talent.
None have made the PGA Tour yet, but more importantly, many of those
who have benefited from the association’s efforts have completed their
college educations and are now enjoying productive professional careers.

“Seeing those youngsters graduate and develop has been very
satisfying for me,” says Dickey, founder and president of NMJGSA. “Some
are doctors, lawyers and CPAs. We’ve been able to provide youngsters
with some financial help for school. It’s a good feeling to have when
you’ve been able to help people out in that manner.”

The association, however, does more than provide scholarship money.
NMJGSA also provides an updated list of young minority golfers for
colleges and universities across the country. This gives colleges with
golf programs ready access to a national pool of minority golf talent.
For the nation’s Black colleges that have golf teams, this service
proves to be an invaluable recruiting tool.

According to Dickey, this database has a listing of 2,000 youth
golfers between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. The listing has all
the pertinent information about these golfers – handicap, grades,
school contacts, and home phone numbers. Coaches who use this database
have a good feel for the talent pool of minority golfers who are ready
for and interested in attending college.

Success Stories Abound

Eddie Payton, Jackson State University golf coach, has a special
appreciation for what NMJGSA does. His team has fielded a significant
number of players who have attended the Mississippi institution with
financial help from the association.

In Black college golf, Jackson State has proven itself to be the
cream of the crop. In eleven years, the Tigers have won seven team
titles at the National Minority Golf Championships. In 1996, the team
didn’t play in the minority tournament because it qualified to play in
the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Division I
Championships.

“The minority association provides us with a vehicle to help
minority golfers get a college education,” Payton says. “With the added
scholarship dollars they provide, it helps us bring in people for our
program because we can combine that money with our grants and other
scholarships to help kids come to school and play golf at the same
time. That’s an invaluable aid for Black college golf programs, most of
which are under-funded to begin with. Without the association’s help,
we’d be very ordinary.”

Payton makes it clear that the association’s database of junior
players is what makes Dickey’s organization such a blessing for Black
college golf.

“We always take a good look at kids on that listing,” he says. “We
can refer to that list and get all the information we need. They do a
good job of identifying and tracking those youngsters while they’re
playing at the junior level. So by the time those kids are ready to
move on to college, we know what a youngster’s skills are and whether
or not they qualify academically to play NCAA sports.”

To apply for a scholarship, youngsters must file an application with
the NMJGSA selection committee. As part of the process, they submit a
letter discussing what they want to achieve in life, along with a list
of references and proof of school grades. Scholarships are awarded
based on financial need, golf skills, grade point average, and where
they want to attend school.

More than a few promising minority golfers have gotten financial
assistance from NMJGSA, either as junior golfers, or as college
scholarship recipients. For example:

* Martin Roache, a South Carolina State graduate who now plays on
the Hooters Tour, was a scholarship recipient. Roache is also a former
National Minority Golf Tournament champion.

* Andy Walker, a key member of the Pepperdine University team which
won the 1997 NCAA team title, got support from the association during
his days as a junior golfer.

* Jackson State’s Tim O’Neal, who led the NCAA in stroke average
last year, also received financial assistance as a junior golfer.

All three are viewed as golfers who have PGA-Tour potential.

Having others follow in Woods’s footsteps is fine, but the main goal
for the minority golf group goes way beyond putting more minorities on
the PGA Tour. The scholarship program has produced some notable success
stories that have nothing to do with playing the game professionally.
For example:

* Attorney Spencer Overton, a Harvard Law School graduate, served
as budget chairman for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

* Dr. Marcus Polk is now an established general practitioner in Atlanta.

* Freddie Chew, one of the nation’s top minority golfers a few
years back, recently graduated from the University of Colorado Law
School.

* Sam Norwood, who played golf at Jackson State, is now in his
final year of medical school at the University of Mississippi, where he
is No. 1 in his class.

A Classic Opportunity The driving force behind the success of the
association is its ability to continually generate a solid cash flow
for its scholarship fund. One of the association’s major fundraisers is
the annual East-West Golf Classic played in Phoenix. This amateur
tournament, in its sixteenth year, features competition between golfers
from the eastern United States and golfers from the western half of the
country. It will be played January 15-17.

In recent years, the East-West Classic has blossomed into a bigger
and grander event. The upcoming event will mark the second straight
year that the tournament has been sold out. Additionally, the field has
been expanded to 288 players.

“The East-West has been a booming success because more people want
to get involved in the sport,” says Marcus Williams, tournament
director. “More corporations are showing increased interest because
they want to give to a good cause. All the money we raise goes to the
scholarship fund. The bottom line is that we’re providing money for
kids who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get a college
education.”

Williams knows what it’s like to get that kind of opportunity. He
honed his links skills as a junior golfer in Wichita, Kansas, with help
from NMJGSA. The association also provided funds for him to attend
Jackson State, where he played collegiately while earning his degree.
Until four years ago, he was a golf teaching pro in Cincinnati prior to
moving west to assume his duties as tournament chairman and director of
the newly formed National Minority Golf Foundation (NMGF).

The major purpose of the NMGF is to increase minority participation
in the game at all levels – junior golf and college golf, as well as on
the employment and business side of the industry. NMJGSA will serve as
the scholarship arm of the foundation.

“Bill Dickey’s organization has been the Pied Piper of minority golf
for a while,” says Williams. “It has continued to grow because it’s all
about providing opportunities for youngsters to make something out-of
their lives. It’s not so much about building the next generation of
minority golfers, it’s more about building a new generation of
professionals.

“Playing golf builds integrity and it builds confidence,” he
continues. “It’s a humbling game and it’s challenging. Youngsters who
learn to play come away with a feeling of accomplishment. They feel
they can accomplish anything and that carries over into whatever they
wish to pursue.”

For more information about the National Minority Junior Golf
Scholarship Association, contact: Bill Dickey or Marcus Williams at
1140 East Washington Street, Suite 102, Phoenix, Ariz., 85034; or call,
(602) 258-7851.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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