On any given day you can find Mark A. Nance at the PXG (Parsons Xtreme Golf) Indianapolis shop. The store manager has been a Professional Golf Association (PGA) professional for 30 years.

“My grandfather played golf. I spent summers and weekends with my grandparents, and it went from him dragging me to the golf course when I was about five years old to me begging him to go to the golf course,” said Nance.

He would play in junior gold tournaments, before going pro after graduating from Jackson State University.

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Nance now serves on the Indiana PGA board and is a part of their DEI committee with programs that cater to accessibility for minorities in the sport.

“Jackson State is obviously an HBCU, and I graduated back in 1990. I was the only Black person on the golf team there. Fast forward to 2024 and to my knowledge as of right now, I am the only Black PGA member in the state of Indiana,” said Nance.

Over the past 25 years, the number of African Americans in administrative roles in the golf industry has not significantly increased.

In 2019, less than 1% of PGA members were African American according to a market data report.

Breaking barriers for African Americans in golf
Mark Nance playing golf inside the PXG Indianapolis shop. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

“You know, we lose a lot of kids from junior to high school because it’s not really cool sometimes to play golf. We talk to parents but even they aren’t comfortable with the game of golf,” said Nance.

“There are many programs now that financially will help, but if you were to ask, most middle class or lower middle-class parents both Black and white would tell you it’s a rich man’s sport. Every year we have scholarships that go unused for kids because of this idea.”

According to the National Golf Foundation, in 2021, 4.1 million African Americans played the sport in the U.S. This represents a significant increase from the 2.6 million who played in 2011.

Despite the growth, they still only make up a small fraction of the total number of golfers in the country.

One of the reasons for the low participation rate is the lack of access to golf courses and equipment. Many courses are in affluent areas and require expensive memberships. This makes it difficult for low-income households to participate.

Additionally, the cost of golf equipment including clubs, balls and bags can limit access.

“A full set of clubs with the bag and other equipment can run you between $700 to $800. It depends on the brand that you’re choosing. The ones I have, I personally like PING products ,” said David Coatie who golfs often at the historic Frederick Douglass Golf Course.

There are 34 golf courses in Indianapolis, including 9 public, 13 municipal and 12 private courses.

Breaking barriers for African Americans in golf
David Coatie uses PING golf clubs and said equipment could run you up to $800 to play. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

Frederick Douglass Golf Course opened its course in 1926 inside the park with the same name.

Coatie got into golf fifteen years ago when he used to work as a previous city councilman.

“On Fridays, everybody would leave and go out where I thought were appointments and they were actually going out to play golf. So, a friend of mine in the governor’s office said I should get out of the office with the rest of the guys,” said Coatie.

“Notice with African Americans, often times we play sports that require aggression, but golf is the type of sport where you have to find what speed you can swing the club to get the best result. Sometimes the less power you have in a swing, the further the ball goes,” said Coatie.

Even with golf being seen historically as a wealthy white privileged sport, African Americans have left their own historical marks and contributions on the course.

In 1961, the PGA of America removed its “Caucasian-only cause” from its bylaws and three years later, Pete Brown became the first African American player to win a PGA-sanctioned event, the Waco Turner Open.

He also won the 1970 Andy Williams San Diego Invitational.

Breaking barriers for African Americans in golf
David Coatie next to Fred Bradley who has worked inside the Frederick Douglass Golf Course Pro Shop for the last 7 years. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

In 1975, Lee Elder became the first African American to play in the Masters.

He would win four times on the PGA Tour and eight times on the Champions Tour.

In 1979 he would hit another first playing in the Ryder Cup.

Tiger Woods has been a consistent representation throughout the 90s to present day got African Americans in the sport.  

“Golf is an individual sport. Even though you play on a team, you have to rely on yourself,” said Nance, who is working on programs to introduce children to the sport and keep them there.

“There are careers in this. It doesn’t matter what your major is. Whether it’s journalism or engineering, there is something in the golf industry that you could do and still be a part of the game.”

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON.