Raise your G.P.A. - lower your handicap:

Dickie and Disney sponsor adolescent golfers who excel academically, socially, and athletically

By Tomi Morris Johnson. Photos by Kurk Johnson

tomij@wingcomltd.com.

©2002 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.

 

June 22, 2002, Lake Buena Vista, FL…It’s nice being able to learn the game of golf – knowing how to hit little balls off Ts, flying them straight, and having the finesse and aim to make balls drop into holes.  In addition, it is especially nice to win. Sometimes, however, winning a game of golf is secondary to playing for keeps. Coupled with academic aptitude and relationship building, you can use golfing skills to win on and off the golf course. That is just what William “Bill” Dickey and the 3rd Annual Invitational Junior Golf Championship held June 22 at Walt Disney World ® emphasized.

 

 

“It takes brain power to play golf,” said Bill Dickey, founder and president of the National Minority Junior Golf Scholarship Association (NMJGSA) who started playing golf rather late in life compared to some of his program’s participants. “I started playing at a local club in Phoenix, AZ in 1946,” Dickey said. “As I got near retirement age, I knew I wanted to start a national golf program for African Americans and minorities. It was easier to get kids involved because with adults, you run up against big egos. Moreover, many adult golfers back then faced segregated clubs.

 

“Golfing breeds character, honesty and develops life skills,” Dickey said. “Some people give up on golf because it’s tough, however, one lesson that I’ve learned is that CEOs hear about an employee’s game, play him or her, and the next thing you know, that golfer has moved up the corporate ladder.” Dickie, a retired 74-year-old real estate and insurance executive, has three daughters, four grandsons, three great grand children, and is married to Alice Dickie.

 

Bill Dickey talks to Tomi Johnson about young golfers.

 

 

“In 1981, when I was President of Western States Golf Association, we had our first tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona with132 youth players and raised $1,500. The second year, we raised $5,000. In 1985, our first NMJGSA scholarship recipient went to Prairie View A & M.  For this year’s tournament, we’ve raised around $250,000 for scholarships from corporate sponsors and individual players.” Since 1984, NMJGSA has awarded over $1,200,000 in scholarships to over 700 minority students nationwide.

 

Dickie is often regarded as a celebrity. When approached at the Championship’s opening reception by a bartender with a MIKE nametag on his jacket that said, “It’s sure a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Dickie,” Bill beamed with appreciation.  “When you start playing golf and seeing that other minorities can also play, it opens you up and lets you build lasting relationships,” Dickie said. “People respect that.”

 

The NMJGSA was established to provide minority youngsters exposure to the fundamentals of golf. Its mission is to increase the participation of them in the sport, provide financial assistance, and encourage their professional development.  The association focuses on scholarships, grants, internships, and employment opportunities.  Awards range from one-time grants of $1,000 to four-years worth as much as $6,000 annually. Awards are based on academic achievement, entrance exam scores, financial need, references, evidence of community service, and golfing ability.

 

Founder Dickey was the first African American to receive the Distinguished Service Award for the Professional Golfers Association (PGA). He also received the United States Golf Association (USGA) 2001 Dey Award, given in recognition of meritorious service to the game as a volunteer. Dickie is a past board member of the American Junior Golf Association, the National Minority Golf Foundation, and serves on the Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship selection committee.

 

Greg Marshall, executive director of NMJGSA, described Bill Dickey as a powerful force of nature: a constant, focused, single –minded individual with a real concern for people. “I admire what he has created to help kids. He takes my breath away!. He’s not the kind of guy who goes left on Thursday and then right on Friday. He was helped himself by the late Dr. Lincoln Johnson Ragsdale, Sr., an entrepreneur and civil rights leader, who was his role model.” 

 

(L to R) Greg Marshall, NMJGSA executive director; Hardy Dorsey, Consultant; Bob Billingslea, NMJSA Board Member, Walt Disney World Resort; & Jonathan Jones, Member, NMJSA Board of Directors & British Open Sponsor.

 

Marshall said Dickey started NMJGSA in Arizona, which is one of the greatest places to golf because of its sunny climate with rare rainfall.  NMJGSA has offices in Phoenix and Austin. Unfortunately, the 2002 Championship at Lake Buena Vista, Florida is scheduled every year in June, the height of the rainy season. The courses, however, are some of the finest in the country and include Bonnet Creek Golf Club, Osprey Ridge, and Eagle Pines.  According to Monica Smith, mother of youth golfer Doug Smith, II from Versailles, KY, “They’ll play either rain or shine.” The golfer’s curfew was 11:00 pm; the wake-up call was 5:30 am.

 

 

Andrea Van Leesten from Los Angeles, CA and Monica Smith from Versailles, KY accompanied their children to golf Dickey tournament. Youth golfer Derrick Carrington (ctr.) says the sport puts minorities in a “better light.”

 

 

This year’s championship players included the top golfers from all minority junior golf programs and tournaments held around the USA.  Forty single-digit handicap, high school players, ages ranging from 15–18, competed in the 54-hole medal play tournament.  Eleven girls played in the invitational this year. Golfer’s G.P.A.s ranged from 2.5 to 5.2.

 

Derrick Carrington is a 17 year old from Cleveland’s Warrensville Heights High School. He likes movies and basketball, but he wants to play college golf and aspires to make the PGA Tour.  “ Right now, I’m here to help Bill Dickie out,” Carrington said laughingly, but added, “I think he’s a really good guy.  I also want to bring minorities into a better light.”

 

Erica Battle, who has placed first in many golf challenges and has a 4.2 G.P.A. from Irmo High School in Columbia, SC added, “It’s not all about playing golf…it’s about the relationships you make.”

 

Going into the tournament, the clear leader was Teddy Collins, a 16-year-old from Manlius, New York with a driving range of 260 yards and a 5.2 G.P.A. (And that’s no error!) His credentials include 1st place in the 2001 PGA Junior Series, the 2001 Pro Link Upstate Men’s Open, 2001 Yaz Consalvo Match Play Qualifier, and 2001 Central New York PGA Junior Tour.  Collins is also an advanced chess player who wants to obtain a chemical engineering degree from Stanford, Duke or Penn State. Collins ended up winning the 3-day tournament, which only lasted two days because of rain.  The winning female was Lauren Espinosa, 16, from Irving, Texas who also placed 1st in the 2001 Callaway Junior All-Star Championship.

 

 

 

Steve R. Hogan, president and CEO of Hogan’s Junior Golf Heroes Foundation, runs a golf facility and learning center in Omaha, Nebraska.  “Bill Dickey is my role model.  Because of his inspiration, I started helping three kids and it has turned into helping 650 golfers. Now it’s up to us to follow his example.  Golf is good because it’s the hook to a better future.”

 

Steve Hogan poses with youth golfer Doug Smith, II.

 

And what has Tiger Woods done for the game of golf? Do these young golfers see themselves as the next Tiger Woods? “Tiger came along and created a great interest in the game and made it highly visible,” Dickie said.

 

“Tiger is a universal person,” said Gregory Hunt of Chesapeake, Virginia, who accompanied his son, 15-year-old son Gregory, to the tournament.  “Tiger has tweaked the game to its finest. Some of the best players can’t understand the game he plays.  He has elevated golf to a new level, he’s very approachable, and he’s also tight with his money.”

 

Tiger Woods was presented on a NMJGSA film during opening reception of Dickey golf tournament.

 

“Golf has been a great experience,” said Hunt, taking out a picture from his wallet of him and Tiger.  “We’re with the South East Junior Golf Academy, which has about 60 world-class golfers.  Keeping the interest up in minority kids for playing a non-traditional sport is a problem.  This is a new experience for them. Once they reach the level of taking the game seriously, I say around 2017, we may have two or three on the PGA tour, but that will require a lot of dedication, concentration, skill, and $50,000 in the bank.  Kids can play on the tour as young as age twelve, but at 18, they can go unchaperoned.”

 

 

(L to R)  Mike Van Leesten, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Mashantucket, CT; Michele and Mark Sebastian, Nantucket, CT; and Richard Butler, Nantucket, CT accompanied their children to golf tournament.

To learn more about the NMJGSA, go to http://www.nmjgsa.org/.       

This information is the opinion of the author and, therefore, should not be construed as libelous.