But this donation is about more than athletics. It’s about providing young black men and women with access to places where politicians, CEOs and influencers have historically come together to network. It’s about upward social mobility.
“Golf is a sport that has changed my life in ways that are less tangible, but just as impactful,” Curry said in a statement, comparing the sport to basketball. “It’s a discipline that challenges your mental wherewithal from patience to focus, and is impossible to truly master.”
Given the slow pace of the sport, golfers spend long periods of time with other players.
“I’ve made a lot of contacts, a lot of friends through golf,” said Sanchez, who held his first golf club 40 years ago, when he was 4. “I would argue I would not be where I am today as a person that’s a non-profit executive without the game of golf.”
For some golfers, the social benefits that come along with the sport are what they value. It’s the sport that can be played for a lifetime.
“You’re stuck on a course with someone for four or five hours. You can talk about something,” said Bennett, who co-founded his organization in 2014. “It’s not enough just to work hard. You have to put yourself out there and network.”
But it wasn’t always this way
Country clubs had a history of discriminating against African-Americans, making it difficult for black people to play.
Even when black golfers were accepted into tournaments hosted by the Professional Golfers’ Association, they sometimes still couldn’t participate because the host club wouldn’t allow them on the premises.
With no place to play, African-Americans opened their own country clubs and advocated for public courses that served their communities, such as Langston Golf Course in Washington, where Curry made his announcement last week.
Langston was built in 1939 and remains one of the nation’s most important historically black golf courses, which made Curry’s choice of venue even more profound. Langston hosted tournaments for African-American players in partnership with black organizations, including the United Golfers Association, established in 1925.
“It was more than a get-together. It was like a party atmosphere,” said Ernie Andrews, a member of Langston’s golf operations team for more than 30 years, who grew up participating in its junior golf programs. He mentioned players such as Ted Rhodes and Pete Brown. “They were very proud, and the community had a lot of respect for these individuals.”
The PGA, which desegregated in 1961, created a policy in 1990 stating it would not play tournaments at country clubs that did not welcome African-American members.
And there’s still a ways to go
When Curry visited Howard’s campus in January, he met a student named Otis Ferguson, who told the basketball player about how he had to choose between playing golf at the collegiate level and attending the historically black college. He asked Curry to help Howard start a golf program.
So when Curry came back to campus last week, all eyes were on the rising senior who had helped make it happen.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s unbelievable,” Ferguson told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.
“The reality is that this is about creating opportunities for the next generation of Otis Fergusons,” said Howard athletic director Kery Davis.
The idea isn’t about seeing more black golfers at the professional level. It’s about seeing more social and economic growth in black communities. Golf is one way to make that happen.
“We’re cultivating and nurturing future young leaders,” Davis said. “Golf is the kind of sport where CEOs, doctors, lawyers — that’s their sport of leisure. We want our students to have those same types of opportunities.”