Williams Sisters Outdo Tiger Among Blacks

In the Dallas Morning News, Kevin Blackistone contends that Venus and Serena Williams have attracted more blacks to tennis than Tiger Woods has to golf:

Unlike Tiger, Venus and Serena Draw Black Players into Their Sport

The reasons are clear why the Williams sisters have had a greater impact bringing other black athletes into tennis than Tiger has getting more black players, or other minorities, into golf.

For one, black kids identify more with the Williams sisters, reared in a well-known black neighborhood by black parents, than with Tiger. Tiger wasn’t reared in a predominantly black neighborhood; he is the product of a mixed marriage and appears to have championed his other roots far more than his black roots.

The Williams sisters always seemed Afrocentric, whether with their braids and beads as teenagers or their ghetto fabulous hair weaves and big earrings as young adult women.

And when Tiger was asked to take a stand on an issue of import to the black community, like Augusta, he balked. Serena respected the NAACP’s travel ban against South Carolina and refused to play there.

Not only that, but golf, as Tiger alluded to recently, continues to struggle with making itself available.

“A lot of these kids don’t have the opportunity to practice and play and compete around the country in junior golf events or individual amateur events,” he lamented last month.

That’s not the case with tennis. A racket doesn’t cost nearly as much as a set of clubs. There isn’t even a city fee to play on a municipal court. Anyone can play.

I suspect that the economic factors outweigh the cultural factors much more than Blackistone suggests. Golf is expensive even for members of the middle class, let alone for minorities who face disadvantaged circumstances. Beyond the equipment costs and the green fees, practice itself hits the pocketbook. Just consider that a bucket of balls at the driving range will require upwards of $5, whereas it’s free to work on your forehand at the local court.

To the extent that image plays a role in the Williams sisters’ influence, we should remember that Tiger inevitably has a higher mountain to overcome. Golf is an old person’s sport. Golfers hit their primes at higher ages than tennis players do. The likes of Jack Nicklaus can dominate for decades longer than the likes of Ivan Llendl, especially with the PGA’s senior circuit. As such, with older faces shown at Augusta than at Wimbledon, kids are less likely to be lured to golf than to tennis. If you’re a young aspiring athlete, would you rather be with Maria Sharapova or Davis Love III?

Given this comparison alone, I’d say that Tiger has been downright miraculous.

Update: Jim Henley offers some excellent observations in the comments section.

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Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    I question the bald facts of his case. For one thing, Tiger really did spark an interest in golf among African-Americans – we could shorthand it as “the Michael Wilbon phenomenon.” (Add John Thompson in there too.) For another, black people have always played golf, as any muni course habitue knows perfectly well. One reason that FedEx Field is in Largo is that Sharon Pratt Kelly was unable to get her wish to take over the grounds of a popular muni course along the Anacostia for a new football stadium, and it wasn’t Ward 3 denizens playing there, either.

    Meanwhile, as a participant sport, tennis is practically dead. The statistics show the drop in interest over time. You can confirm it anecdotally by driving past most public courts. I’ve heard reasonable speculation that the reason for the decline in its popularity is that it is very hard to have a real GAME of tennis unless both sides are very evenly matched. Otherwise it’s a sport of very short rallies leading to a foregone conclusion, and devoid of interest.

  2. b-psycho says:

    Eh, all I know is I really like watching Serena Williams’ matches. I’d follow that butt through a freakin minefield…

  3. Blacks that are trying to make it in golf have difficulties not in access but in cost. Most african american people will drive more than 30 min to go to a movie or to go purchase Sean John clothing or Lil John records. We could get to the country Club as well if we wanted too. The issue is money, and yes access to the elite courses exist but who wants to play on those stuffy courses anyway. My son who is 10 has been playing golf for 5 years all over the US and in Belgium and was a member of the Tiger Woods 2004 junior golf team. Me and my wife are military and I estimate over the past 5 years we have spent close to 70K in golf related expenses not to mention private school cost. Tiger Woods changed the golf for Asians not blacks. Blacks have had a strong history in golf before Tiger Woods came along. There are some really good kids out here but my family and our income just like most can’t afford the fees of constant travel, memberships etc. Even the TWF golf team does not identify the top players and prep them along for golfing sucess. For Tiger to say the sport is lacking because of access is true but not the main reason for lack of blacks in golf at a high level. This sport lacks blacks playing golf on tour because there is not a farm system to track and assist those with great talent. I would hope that Tiger would help setup thru Nike an all black junior golf team not at his EXPENSE but at Nikes expense. I say all black because just like the First Tee program that was developed to grow golf it has for most people of have acces anyway if it says minority the the team will be 20% black 60% white/Asian descent. I feel since most of Nikes clothing and shoes are bought and sold in the inner city mainly by poor black youth Nike could do more to grow golf in the Afican American community, they could do more! Tiger could do more to ensure funding is there he has the power to make change in this area! If there are any black wealthy individuals or families that would like to invest in these kids please contact me as I could provide names on 20 of the best Junior golfers under 20 in the world right now! Please help keep this great black golfing legacy alive. If anyone is interested in donationg to my sons future go to: