George-Bradford-1

Tim-ONeal

George Bradford (pictured, blue shirt) edged Tim O’Neal (pictured, white shirt) and Don Wright (not pictured) in the inaugural 2010 event. The victory earned him $4,000. Fast forward to 2015, and the sixth annual APT event was recently played at Rogers Park on March 14-15, 2015. Tim O’Neal shot 64-68=132 to win by four shots, and the winner’s check for $7500. Over the six years, the APT has grown in every aspect, as evidenced by the level of talent, financial support from individual donors and the PGA TOUR. The APT has also been featured on the Golf Channel on more than one occasion.

In March 2010, the first Advocates Pro Tour (APT) event was played at Rogers Park Golf Course, in Tampa, FL. The concept of the tour was developed by the Advocates USA, a group dedicated to “raising funds for organizations that benefit the African America community.” Uneven Fairways, a documentary chronicling the victories and struggles of African American golfers, had recently aired on the Golf Channel. Adrian Stills, who is black, played the PGA TOUR in the 1980’s. He was one of the featured players on the Uneven Fairways documentary. Adrian turned advocate, and convinced members of the club that a tour should be formed to identify aspiring players of color, and provide competition and prize monies to help them reach their dreams of making it the PGA TOUR, the sports highest level. And so it was done!

I am an APT board member, and proud of our role to help connect our young, aspiring players with necessary resources to further pursue their goals. Essentially, we’re a group of older golf enthusiasts who’ve experienced a level of success in our professional careers. Now, we are dedicated to helping the next generation discover and write their own personal success stories in the sport of golf; either as a player, entrepreneur, or occupation.

All APT events are 36 hole competitions. This year, we’ve expanded to five tournaments, thus providing more available prize monies and opportunities for exposure/recognition to our participants. A unique part of the APT is where we host our competitions. We typically play at golf courses where the history and culture align with the mission of the APT.

For example, during the days of segregation, Rogers Park was the only picnic area for the African American community in Tampa. The park is named after G.D. Rogers, a successful pioneer and businessman. Founded in 1952, the golf course has long been a destination for amateur and professional golfers of all races. Diversity is not an issue at Rogers Park, and it maintains a culture that welcomes all.

Other venues include Pontchartrain GC in New Orleans, a location steeped in history and the legend of Joe Bartholomew. In the early 1920’s, Mr. Bartholomew, who was black, was a golf professional, licensed greens superintendent, and golf course architect. Wow! Our next APT tournament is scheduled there on June 20-21, 2015.

Osceola Golf Course, in Pensacola, FL, was one of the first municipal golf courses to end segregation in the late 1950’s, and open play to people of color. My close friend, Adrian Stills, grew up playing Osceola GC, and he is now the Head Golf Professional. We’re scheduled to play there on June 27-28, 2015. (Note we also have a tentative July date in Atlanta). The final Advocates Pro Tour (APT) event is our 2015 championship, August 15-16 at Chester Washington Golf Course, in Los Angeles. Many of us veteran golfers remember Chester Washington as the old Western Avenue Golf Course, where fellow minority golfers congregated during the Civil Rights Era. One could write a book on the stories from old Western Avenue GC, but that’s another topic all together. Suffice it to say that it was known and respected by our players for its spirited competitions, camaraderie, and welcoming atmosphere.

I’ll close this article by (again) saying that I am extremely proud to be part of the APT, and the movement to bring more diversity into the game of golf, and its industry. If you’re an aspiring pro player, I invite you to our events. If you’re not a pro, but interested in our purpose, please stop by one of our events, or contact me directly.