PGA Tour, United Airlines announce ‘travel grant’ program for HBCU golf

Xavier Williams of North Carolina A&T competes at the Phoenix Invitational in October.

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One of the biggest burdens facing golf at Historically Black Colleges and Universities just grew a little lighter.

On Monday, United Airlines announced the donation of “travel grants” to 51 men’s and women’s HBCU golf teams to cover the cost of travel for events and recruiting efforts. The gift, which totals $510,000 and will be split evenly between each of the 51 teams, marks the latest in a small but growing series of investments in golf at the HBCU level, where finances have proven a major roadblock in development.

“We have made a pledge to help diversify the landscape of competitive golf,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a release. “This collaboration between United Airlines and these colleges and universities will be a significant step toward leveling the playing field and enhancing the student-athlete experience along the way.”

Golf is already an unsteady proposition at the college level, where “non-revenue” sports that require significant financial investment struggle to survive. Those concerns are amplified at the HBCU level, where meager budgets have left programs struggling to grow at the same pace as their Power 5 counterparts. With the donation from the Tour and United, HBCU programs nationwide will have the financial flexibility to expand their schedules, which will, in turn, provide players with more opportunities to advance their careers.

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“The golf program at Winston-Salem State University came back to the school for the first time in 10 years last fall. This year, the United Airlines grant will impact our program’s ability to travel tremendously,” Winston-Salem State University head coach Charles Penny, II said. “It now allows for our program to consider more tournaments to play in the fall. Specifically, this past fall, we were only able to play one tournament due to limitations in our travel budget. This fall, we will be able to add close to four.”

HBCU golf has garnered increased interest from the golf community in recent years. In 2020, Augusta National endowed the first-ever “Lee Elder Scholarships” at nearby Paine College, while this past fall, former NBA player J.R. Smith joined the golf team at North Carolina A&T. Still, interest hasn’t necessarily changed the bottom line for those in the sport, where investments like that of United and the PGA Tour’s are still vital to filling out complete, competitive programs.

“Removing barriers for HBCU students to have the same opportunities given to other collegiate athletes will open doors for countless young Black golfers to achieve their dreams and for HBCU golf programs to develop to their full potential,” United President Brett Hart said. “United is committed to advancing inclusion and racial equity and that begins with making meaningful mentorship and scholarship investments in the communities we serve.”

The investment comes courtesy of the PGA Tour’s HBCU task force, which was founded last year in the wake of the George Floyd protests with the aim of identifying corporate partners with whom the Tour could partner to invest in HBCU golf and advance diversity in the sport.

According to the Tour’s release, the program will help to prop up more than 250 college golfers currently affiliated with the 51 programs.

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James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.