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First Tee of Arkansas swings for diversity.

First Tee of Arkansas, a program designed to develop kids' characters while exposing them to golf, is working to make the program more diverse.

Of the more than 4,500 kids that are in or have been in the four-year-old program, only 15 percent to 20 percent are African-American, and only about 2 percent are black girls--figures that are below the national average for First Tee programs, according to executive director Tony Hourston.

Hourston said myriad challenges are keeping the program from having more young golfers across the color spectrum.

"For the longest time golf is perceived to be an exclusionary sport," said Hourston, himself a black golfer.

To dispel that notion and others that hinder black involvement, First Tee has recruited Renee Powell, the second black player on the LPGA Tour, to bring in more kids from the black community.

Powell will talk to kids about her experience as a black female golfer in the late 1960s with the hope of getting more kids to follow her lead in making the sport more diverse.

Hourston said Powell helped pave the way for golf diversity's poster child: Tiger Woods. Also, Powell's father is the only African-American to design, own and build his own golf course.

Hourston also wants to dispel some myths about First Tee to the African-American community. He's quick to point out the minimal cost of playing the course and the availability of need-based scholarships. First Tee is also working with other organizations to help with transportation to the southwest Little Rock facility.

Learning how to play golf can be a good career move for minority youths, Hourston said.

"What better atmosphere to garner business than golf?" he said,
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Comment:First Tee of Arkansas swings for diversity.(Golf)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Mar 21, 2005
Words:281
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