When Michelle Wie West joined the LPGA board this year, she had a few goals in mind. Mainly, she wanted to create more accessibility for colored communities and increase general support for women’s sports.
Knowing that access to golf often leads to opportunities outside of the game, West decided that encouraging girls of color to play golf would benefit them well beyond the green.
“What I’ve noticed is that the opportunity to play golf really opens so many doors for you in the business and corporate world,” West told USA TODAY Sports. “I feel like it will open so many doors for girls of color to have this opportunity and be part of these important conversations and discussions.”
West chose clothing as her medium to raise awareness of the game, and while working with the LPGA, the #HoodieForGolf initiative was born of which the Renee Powell Fund and the Clearview Legacy Foundation.
The Renee Powell Fund provides on-demand golf program grants for girls that involve black communities, and provides access to golf and the resources necessary to keep in touch with the sport.
The hoodies make women’s golf known, but they also pay tribute to the history of golf in the Black community, and that includes NBA stars Damion Lee and Kent Bazemore who wore them, as well as a Hosted by PGA Tour members.
“I think the power of merchandise is very strong and I saw it at the WNBA,” West said, admiring the notoriety of the iconic orange WNBA hoodies that were brought to the league. “I just wanted to bring that to the LPGA.”
Renee Powell, who in 1967 was only the second black woman to take part in the LPGA tour (tennis star Althea Gibson was the first in 1964), has devoted her life to diversifying the game of golf and preserving her father’s legacy “Golf for everyone” alive.
Her father, William “Bill” Powell, served in the US Army in the 1940s and, like many black Americans, experienced racial discrimination in the states after returning from World War II.
After experiencing racism on the golf course and being banned in many clubs because he was black, he decided to build his own. In 1946 the Clearview Golf Club was founded in East Canton Ohio.
Powell had completed nine holes by 1948 and expanded the course to eighteen in 1978. While there are black-owned golf clubs across the country, Clearview remains the only golf course in the United States to be designed, built, owned and managed from an African American.
Working with Renee Powell and Clearview was paramount to West in giving girls of color the opportunity to join the sport.
“It was amazing, it opened your eyes and learned about the history of Clearview,” said West. “The game of golf is predominantly white and the history of accessing the game has the stereotype that it’s not very accessible, hard to get in and hard to stay. We’re just trying to do more justice to the women’s game.” and in communities that have had no access or resources in the past. “
West hopes to expand the diversity of golf, and looks to a future for golf as diverse as the nation.
“I am so proud to be part of the LPGA,” said West. “We’re such a global tour. We have girls from all different countries and from all walks of life. The PGA looks like it too.”
West also believes golf can play a role in raising awareness of issues faced by colored communities.
“After all, we’re all Americans,” West said. “We are all part of the same community and I am really proud that all of the communities have stood up for what they think is right over the past year, especially Stop Asian Hate. For me personally, it really is. All of the things that happen across the country happen to people the age of my grandparents and parents so I can just imagine it and it’s heartbreaking.
“Through the game of golf we can offer girls of color the opportunity. I grew up with it and have the privilege of doing this sport and calling this sport my job. I only want to offer the same opportunity to girls who could.” never think about it. “