Winslow tackles LPGA exemption

Tight end's cousin 1st African-American on tour in 5 years

April 20, 2006|By THOMAS BONK | THOMAS BONK,LOS ANGELES TIMES

Andia Winslow's cousin is Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow, and the 23-year-old golfer says some of his traits have rubbed off on her.

"I've got good hands, too."

At the very least, she has good genes, which might even come in handy next week when she tackles a tough assignment on the LPGA Tour. Winslow, an amateur, earned a sponsor's exemption into the $2.5 million Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open at the Reunion Resort & Club in Orlando, Fla., where there probably are going to be more than a few people watching how she performs.

That's because Winslow is the first African-American to play in an LPGA Tour event in five years, when LaRee Pearl Sugg was a member.

Winslow is accustomed to breaking new ground, even as an amateur. She was the first African-American to play in the Ivy League, at Yale, and the first scholarship recipient from the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

A freelance writer and documentary filmmaker, Winslow works in Orlando on the business side of the Walt Disney World Golf Resort. She shares a house with Kellen, who also works for Disney as director of planning and new business development for Disney Sports.

Andia Winslow studied sociology at Yale, and that may provide her with a few insights into the area of golf as it relates to people of color and their lack of representation on the LPGA Tour.

The so-called Tiger Effect, or the impact that Tiger Woods was supposed to have on people of color to influence their participation in pro golf, simply hasn't been a factor since Woods turned pro in 1996.

According to the African American Golfer's Digest, 31.2 million non-Hispanic whites play golf in the U.S. and only 2.2 million African-Americans.

The U.S. Golf Association, which runs amateur championship events, does not ask for specific race information from entrants, but a spokesman for the USGA said the organization has "precious" few men or women of color in its USGA championships.

Golf was one of the last major sports to integrate, which happened in 1961 when the PGA, the forerunner of the PGA Tour, agreed to drop its "Caucasians Only" clause, while staring at a landmark lawsuit filed by Stanley Mosk, then California's attorney general who went on to serve as a state Supreme Court justice for 37 years.

Sugg, who starred at UCLA, missed the cut at the 2000 U.S. Women's Open. Cheyenne Woods -- Tiger Woods' niece -- played in the 2005 U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur and made it to the third round of match play.

Winslow believes Tiger Woods' legacy as it relates to involving people of color in professional golf is still being formed and that it is too early to judge.

"I think Tiger has made quite an impact," she said, "but it takes time and it takes resources and accountability within the golf community."

Winslow pointed to such trailblazers in the men's game as Charlie Sifford, Jim Thorpe, Lee Elder, Calvin Peete and Pete Brown, who preceded Woods in a period when there were few tracks to follow.

"And before I would call myself a trailblazer, I can also remember doors that were broken down by LaRee Sugg and Althea Gibson. At the same time, I understand this is an important moment in my life, and if I'm going to be looked upon as some kind of role model, I'd be honored."

How Winslow will measure her success next week comes in a more tangible package. As a competitor, she wants to play her best golf, take advantage of her situation and maybe make the cut. She said she isn't tempted to turn pro and try to take home a hunk of the $2.5 million purse, the second-largest for an LPGA event in the U.S., trailing only the $3.1 million U.S. Open.

Ginn has a four-year deal with the LPGA to sponsor the tournament, and part of the company's plan is to include Orlando-area golfers with promise, which is where Winslow comes in.

She is working with teaching pro Brian Mogg of Keene's Point at Windermere, Fla., and Mogg includes Charles Howell III as one of his clients. Winslow has circled Sept. 18-21 on her calendar. That's when the LPGA qualifying school will be played at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

In the meantime, Winslow has her hands full. She said she would try to qualify for USGA championship events, continue her work at the Disney World Golf Resort and keep her ears open when her cousin speaks.

"He's a wonderful resource for me," she said. "His best piece of advice is remain true to yourself and to have fun in the process."

You never know, it could lead to something.

Thomas Bonk writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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