Lone Black pro golfer belies sport’s ‘diversity’

Onika Craven/MSR News Mariah Stackhouse

Conclusion of a two-part column

Mariah Stackhouse drew a small walking crowd of around 10 persons of color as she competed in the LPGA’s third major of the year. The second-year pro was the only Black female golfer at last weekend’s Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine National.

“I’m happy to see a sistah out here,” former Thor Cos. CEO Ravi Norman told me.

SEE ALSO: Black golfers scarce at Hazeltine, plentiful at Emerald Greens

Stackhouse, who at age 17 was the youngest Black woman to play in the U.S. Open in 2011, was a four-time All-American at Stanford, where she helped the Cardinal win the 2015 National Championship and graduated with her communications degree in 2016. She is one of two Black women on this year’s LPGA tour.

“College prepared her a lot for this,” Stackhouse’s mother Sharon Stackhouse said of her daughter when asked about her competing in a virtually all-White sport. Unlike past Black females who had to deal with the subtle and overt racism, “She don’t have to deal with the same things that others before her had to deal with,” Sharon said. “She [Mariah] is handling it very well.”

Stackhouse earned $273,260 (67th) in 2018 and was part of an LPGA record for most golfers (79) making $200,000 in a single season. She made the cut in four LPGA majors and posted 20 cuts in 26 starts overall last year.

“[I felt] the need to be out there and be competitive, and to be playing up here week in and week out,” Mariah said. “I hope that more girls can see me and be inspired to play golf. Not just Black girls but Black boys, too.”

Black workers were more visible at Hazeltine last weekend, clearly outnumbering the only golfer who looked like them in the 150-plus field. It resembled a Three Dog Night song — one can be the loneliest number on the golf course.

It also defies LPGA officials’ contention that the sport is becoming more diverse. The LPGA media guide notes that players hail from over 30 countries. “There are probably more players from Asia on our tour than from the United States,” 10-year pro Stacy Lewis declared.

LPGA Chief Brand and Marketing Officer Roberta Bowman pleaded, “We are working very hard to change the diversity of the game.”

Onika Craven/MSR News Sharon Stackhouse

“I think it’s getting there,” Lewis said of the sport’s diversity. “You have to break the barriers. It starts with kids. You have to get kids in after-school programs to go to the golf course and learn the game. That’s really where it starts.”

Veteran golfer Phil Mickelson lauded the PGA’s First Tee program as an effort to improve golf’s diversity. “Tiger [Woods] was very instrumental in helping to promote” the program, which started in 1997. But the program’s website says there are far more White youth (51 percent) as participants than Blacks (16 percent).

“It has only been 15-20 years,” Mickelson said. “I think the biggest thing is exposure.”

“She’s in it for the long run,” Sharon Stackhouse surmised of her daughter’s pro career.

“I don’t just want to be out here… I want to be out here and be competitive for as long as I am excited to play the game,” Mariah concluded.