Jackson Park a training ground for black golfers

By Associated PressApril 1, 2009, 4:00 pm
CHICAGO ' Its nothing exotic, just a shaggy, meandering sliver of green at the eastern edge of a black neighborhood. But to the kids who first glimpsed Jackson Park Golf Course through a chain-link fence, it might as well have been the surface of the moon.
 
Id walk past on my way to see a girlfriend who lived nearby. Back then, Tyrone Banks recalled the other day, Id just stand there for a while watching and wonder what the point of it all was.
 
Nearly five decades later that kid has grown up, served in the military, climbed the corporate ladder, retired and returned to Jackson Park, this time as general manager. This 5,463-yard, par-70 muni on the citys South Side is ground zero in the landscape of Chicago public golf, but perhaps even moreso for black public golf across America. If there was ever a place to rebuild the foundation and revitalize the game before handing it over to the next generation, this is it.
 
Jackson Park was built in 1899 and first played by blacks at the turn of the last century, though another 50 years passed before they were really welcome, especially at tournament time. One of the first to take advantage and show up for the City Amateur was Joe Louis, who became an icon with his fists but loved few things more than wrapping them around a golf club.
 
A day after he finished birdie-birdie-par to lock up a three-peat in the 1993 U.S. Junior Amateur, 17-year-old phenom Tiger Woods flew halfway across the country to put on a clinic at the threadbare driving range. Then he came back on his way to the Western Open four years later, already a global phenomenon, and did another.
 
A half-dozen years ago, nobody thought to make a fuss whenever state senator and University of Chicago law professor Barack Obama showed up at the starters shed with a set of left-handed clubs in tow, looking to fill out a foursome. The next time he does, somebody probably will.
 
I played with Barack round about 2004, Banks said. Im one of those people who believes just one round of golf allows you to know somebody well. You could see that he had class just by the way he played.
 
For all that, Jackson Parks most distinguished alumnus might be a soft-spoken teaching pro named Emmanuel Worley, who came to the game late and never quite made up enough ground to reach the PGA Tour. He got as far as the second round of U.S. Open qualifying once, played the mini-tours in Florida for a few months, and cobbled together enough sponsorship money to take two cracks at the tours Q-school in the mid-1990s.
 
But Worley also surrendered a chance or two to slip into a tournament field as an alternate because he couldnt stick around to find out if all the regulars showed up.
 
I had a job to come back to, he said.
 
At the time, he was in the middle of a 15-year stint as the general manager at Jackson Park. Now 48, Worley is gearing up for one last run at the pros, this time against the 50-and-over crowd on the Champions Tour.
 
A lot of good golfers have that same dream every night. But every morning Worley rises before 5 a.m., hits 300-400 balls, then works the cash register and gives lessons at another park district driving range on the north side of town. He gets home around 8 p.m., then heads over to the gym for a two-hour workout.
 
Im more devoted now, better rounded, more confident and a lot more relaxed. Hungrier, too, Worley said. And the wonderful thing about golf is if I shoot the numbers, what can stop me?
 
He didnt wait for an answer.
 
But my first responsibility, he added, is to take care of my family.
 
Like more than a few graduates of Jackson Park, Worley learned not to take his eyes off that prize. Hes made a living and helped raise two kids working at something he loved. Hes done more for other peoples kids than some of them will know. And he knows if the chance to test himself against the best never comes, well, it might for his son Joshua ' a 19-year-old sophomore on the golf team at Chicago State University ' or one of the two dozen youngsters who pass through the junior program he runs during the year. But thats almost beside the point.
 
Finding even one kid good enough to become a tour pro would be a miracle, let alone someone like Woods.
 
Besides, that wasnt the aim when a few tough-minded women from the neighborhood stood up to the same golf organizations that had excluded them for years and started a program for juniors. They just wanted their kids to have the chance to play. That was 1954. There were dozens, maybe a hundred such programs already up and running in suburbs around the country, but not even one in a black community. Worley runs that same Bob-O-Links program at Jackson Park today. The mission hasnt changed.
 
Golf will teach you how to keep an open mind, and how to make choices. How to be patient. How to endure, Worley said. A lot of the things you need to know are already in there.
 
Worley had nothing that lofty in mind when he cut across the third fairway on his way home one summer afternoon. He was 11 and had just finished caddying when Hayes Thornton, a Jackson Park regular who worked for the board of education, called him over.
 
He talked me into picking up a club and playing. The memory still pains him. The first time around, I shot 100.
 
By his late 20s, Worley was good enough to win back-to-back City Amateur titles. He was sitting on a bench at the driving range not long after, when some golfers who saw him play asked about lessons.
 
Thats pretty much when I figured it out, Worley said. Trade iron (trophies) for cash.
 
Golf hasnt made him rich, but it helped make him a better man. Scratch the memory of just about any old-timer at Jackson Park and youll hear similar stories about kids who became caddies and went to college on scholarships, or else used the course management skills they learned there to carve out livelihoods as teachers, cops, postmen or local business owners. Ultimately, that might be the point.
 
Tiger made playing golf cool for black kids, and if Im being honest, Ill admit that by now, I thought there would be more lot blacks on the tour, said Banks, Jackson Parks general manager.
 
But you know what? Golf is difficult. It can get expensive. You cant teach yourself how to play, because then you spend the rest of your life unlearning bad habits you gave yourself in the first place, he added, his voice rising. Every single golfer on the PGA Tour takes lessons ' even Tiger and Phil (Mickelson).
 
Banks ticks off another handful of reasons why an already daunting game seems less accessible than ever to the kids still living within a few par-5s of the course. Then he remembers what it game did for him, and like a golfer on the tee, he begins plotting a route around or between every hazard:
 
  • Revive the caddie program;
     
  • Restore the outreach effort that sent volunteer golf instructors into the local public elementary and high schools a few days each month;
     
  • Recapture the buzz surrounding Tigers 1997 Masters win.
     
    Over Banks left shoulder, a maintenance crew is grooming some bushes alongside the starters shed. Over his right, a lone player tees off on No. 1. Banks wants the course in top shape by the time Chicagos unpredictable weather smooths out, though no one has any idea when that will be.
     
    He looks down the first fairway, out toward the sprawling lawn that once puzzled him so, and slides his hands deeper into his pockets. Banks to-do list is getting longer by the moment.
     
    Somehow, he sighed, were going to get it all done.
     
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    Watch: Fathauer dunks one off flagstick for eagle

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 17, 2018, 7:45 pm

    The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest will take place Saturday night in Los Angeles, but Derek Fathauer kicked things off a little early with this eagle in the third round of the Genesis Open.

    Playing his second shot on the par-4 third hole at Riviera Country Club, Fathauer dunked one off the flagstick and into the hole for an eagle-2:

    The shot got the the 32-year-old, in search of his first PGA Tour victory, under par for the round and into the mix early on Moving Day.

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    Luiten in three-way tie at Oman Open

    By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 4:17 pm

    MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten showed a return to form after a mediocre 2017 as he moved into a three-way tie for the lead in the Oman Open on Saturday.

    The Dutchman shot a second straight 6-under 66 - the joint best score of the day - to move to 12-under 204. He was joined at the top by Matthew Southgate (69) and Frenchman Julien Guerrier (66) after the third round at the Greg Norman-designed Al Mouj Golf Club.

    England's Chris Wood (69), another man on the comeback trail, was in fourth place at 11 under, but it could have been a lot better if not for a bogey-bogey finish. Adrian Otaegui (66) was a shot behind Wood while pre-tournament favorite, France's Alexander Levy (67), was at 9 under.

    The 90th-ranked Luiten credited some hot iron play for his success after a cracked driver set him back last year when he had just two top-10 finishes the whole season.


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    ''I cracked my driver in my first tournament of the year in Abu Dhabi and it took me almost six months to get another one that I really liked. Once you are not driving the ball well, it puts pressure on other parts of your game,'' said the 32-year-old Luiten. ''My iron play did not get me into trouble at all today.''

    Southgate was quick off the block with three birdies in his first three holes. But the Englishman then made two bogeys and a double bogey in his next four holes, and a birdie on the ninth saw him make the turn at even-par.

    That forced him to think differently for the back nine and he was rewarded with three birdies.

    ''It was quite funny really,'' Southgate said. ''We birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary ... 'We've just shot level par, so let's just pretend that we've made nine solid pars and that we haven't holed a putt and haven't made a birdie. Let's just start again on the 10th'.''

    The 32-year-old Guerrier started his round with a monster 48-foot birdie putt and had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys.

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    J.Y. Ko increases lead; Lydia focuses on positives

    By Associated PressFebruary 17, 2018, 3:33 pm

    ADELAIDE, Australia - Jin Young Ko continued her domination of the Women's Australian Open, shooting a 1-under 71 Saturday to increase her lead to four strokes after three rounds.

    The South Korean, who led after each of the opening two rounds of the LPGA tournament, had a three-round total of 11-under 205 at Kooyonga Golf Club.

    Australian golfer Hannah Green moved into second place after the round of the day, a 66.

    Green, 21, is seeking to become the first Australian to claim her national crown since Karrie Webb won the last of her five titles in 2014. Webb, who is playing a part-time schedule in 2018, missed the cut Friday by one stroke.

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    "I was very pleased with my ball striking," Green said. "I have put myself in contention so I'm very happy with how things are panning out.

    "It was a real shame about Karrie missing the cut, but I know she has got different plans."

    South Korea's Hyejin Choi (70), was tied for third, five strokes behind. Australia's top-ranked golfer Minjee Lee was tied for fifth after a 69, six off the lead.

    Former No. 1 Lydia Ko shot a 71 and was eight strokes behind.

    "It's always nice to be able to start the season on a good note, and I've obviously got tomorrow," Lydia Ko said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off on a high note."

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    Cantlay, McDowell, Saunders share lead at Riviera

    By Doug FergusonFebruary 17, 2018, 3:51 am

    LOS ANGELES - Tiger Woods waited 12 years to get back to Riviera and lasted only two days.

    Woods had three straight bogeys early on the back nine Friday and didn't play well enough to make up for his misses. He had a 5-over 76 and missed the cut in the Genesis Open for the first time in nine appearances as a pro.

    He was at 6-over 148, one shot worse than his PGA Tour debut as a 16-year-old at Riviera.

    ''I missed every tee shot left and I did not putt well, didn't feel very good on the greens,'' Woods said. ''And consequently, never made a run. I knew I had to make a run on that back nine, and I went the other way.''

    Patrick Cantlay ran off three straight birdies toward the end of his morning round, starting with a tap-in on the par-3 sixth when he missed a hole-in-one by a fraction of an inch, and shot a 69. He was tied with Graeme McDowell (66), the former U.S. Open champion who is trying to work his way back from a two-year slump.

    They were at 7-under 135.

    Sam Saunders also was at 7 under, making back-to-back birdies until it was too dark to continue. He had three holes remaining in his second round. Ryan Moore bogeyed his final hole for a 68 and was one shot behind at 136.

    Rory McIlroy overcame a few short misses on the front nine for a 69 and was at 2-under 140.


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    Cantlay was coming off a three-putt bogey when his tee shot at the par-3 sixth - the hole with a bunker in the middle of the green - landed above the flag and to the right, and then rolled back down the slope just over the right edge of the cup.

    ''I actually missed a little to the right, but it's a bowl back there so as long as you get the number right, it should be pretty close,'' Cantlay said.

    He followed with a short iron into 5 feet for birdie, a 15-foot birdie on the next hole and then a wild drive that led to a bogey on his final hole.

    McDowell has gone 59 starts worldwide since his last victory and has fallen out of the top 200 in the world. He had missed four straight cuts dating to late last year, though he felt he was hitting it well in practice. What helped was seeing some good scores.

    ''All I'm missing is a couple little numbers and a little bit of confidence,'' McDowell said.

    Defending champion Dustin Johnson shot a 69 and gets to stick around for the weekend. He was at 1-over 143. Bubba Watson, who won in 2014 and 2016, has fallen out of the top 200 in the world after a two-year drought. He shot a 70 and was at 4-under 138, and then headed for the NBA All-Star weekend to play in the celebrity game.