Green will be part of enhanced athletic facilities at Clanzel Brown Center and is another in a series of grants by The Players that includes a First Tee leadership program and relaunching the Edward Waters women’s golf team.
You’ve heard the old golf adage, “drive for show, putt for dough?”
The Players Championship has reversed that.
For the second year in a row, The Players had started a 50-day countdown to tournament week (March 8-13 at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass) on Martin Luther King Day by promotingthe growth of golf in Jacksonville’s urban core.
A $100,000 donation towards the construction of a putting green at the Clanzel Brown Community Center, on the same ground where there was a nine-hole pitch-and-putt course decades ago, was announced on Jan. 17 at the center’s baseball field — which was then the venue for a novel approach that combined golf and baseball.
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Groundbreaking is scheduled for the week of The Players and will be the first piece of the planned Clanzel Brown Sports Complex that will include the improvement of existing facilities and the addition of tennis courts and a football field.
Ju’Coby Pittman, District 8 city councilwoman, noted at the ceremony that the facility is adjacent to the Brentwood Golf Club, home to First Tee-North Florida since 2000, and J.P. Small Park, which was the home of the Jacksonville Red Caps of the Negro League.
“We’re making a difference in this community, one family at a time,” she told the crowd at the ceremony, which included representatives of the Jaguars, Jumbo Shrimp, Players Championship past chairmen and current volunteer leadership, Duval County public school athletics and the city of Jacksonville. “On this historical day, I can really see a difference in this community. Golf started here for African Americans in this area and baseball started down the corner.”
Since Martin Luther King Day in 2021, The Players has donated nearly $450,000 for initiatives that grow or support golf on the Northside and downtown:
• As part of a $275,000 contribution to First Tee-North Florida, the “Rising Leaders of Jax,” program was launched on Jan. 18, 2021. The program identified 30 middle-school students and introduced them to golf, plus academic support and character development, through a free, accelerated program at Brentwood.
• The Players donated $50,000 last May to Edward Waters University to restart its women’s golf program.
• The Moore-Myers Children’s Fund, which was founded in 2014 to support Jacksonville youth in underserved areas through golf instruction and mentorship, received $7,000 from The Players last year, for a total of $22,000 since 2019.
• And the latest donation for the putting green will give children who don’t play sports such as football, basketball or baseball an alternative.
After the ceremony, as a game of “Golf Baseball” began between kids from the Boys and Girls Club playing with the adults, Pittman said offering golf as a component of the planned athletic complex is an important first step.
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“Golf is one more layer to it,” she said. “This is a game they can play for a long time and it also can help them down the road as they engage in careers.”
The putting green will be combined with activities such as Golf Baseball and SNAG Golf for children who are beginners. Those who show a desire to do more than putt or hit tennis balls with oversized plastic clubs can simply go just a few blocks away to Brentwood to participate in First Tee programs.
The putting green also will be open to the public.
“It’s much more than a putting green,” said Players executive director Jared Rice. “It’s one more way to bring the game to the underserved and underrepresented in our community and make it approachable. Golf baseball and other activities are new ways to bring golf to people.”
Since The Players has already supported The First Tee and Boys and Girls Clubs, Rice said it was a gimmee 2-foot putt to do more.
“When we heard of councilwoman Pittman’s vision for this facility, we wanted to help,” Rice said. “We already have a strong relationship with the Boys and Girls Clubs and The First Tee, so it made it a natural for us to support these efforts.”
Watching the proceedings with delight was Mickey Brown, the daughter of Clanzel Brown, the director of the Urban League for 16 years, the first African-American to serve on the Downtown Development Authority and a member of the Jax Chamber.
“The more exposure children have to any activity, the better,” she said. “And golf is a game that kids can play whether they’re tall or short, slow or fast … it’s the great equalizer. Oftentimes, children who don’t come from means think this is not a sport for them, but they can play this game if they have the tools and the space.”
Behind home plate at the Golf Baseball game was a large banner that said, “Make Golf Your Thing” — a collaboration among golf’s governing bodies, the equipment and the retail industry to “ensure the future of golf is open to everyone.”
Marsha Oliver, senior director of community outreach for the PGA Tour’s Championship Management department (which runs The Players and the World Golf Championships), said the whole idea is to let people know that recent iterations of golf are within their means and time constraints.
“It doesn’t have to be 18 holes at a country club,” she said. “It can be nine holes, a putting green, Baseball Golf, Topgolf. We’re trying to encourage citizens in all areas to enjoy golf in any way they can.”
Oliver said the recent efforts of The Players have combined with the PGA Tour’s financial support of the Advocates Pro Golf Association and the launching of the APGA ranking system for golfers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which provides professional playing opportunities beyond college.
“We are making a strong effort and are committed to ensuring that we grow the game in diverse communities,” she said. “This is a very deliberate effort and part of our responsibility to remove barriers to access and cost of golf at all levels.”
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