Rocket Mortgage Field Shows How APGA Opportunities Are Paying Off
Click on the Rocket Mortgage Classic leaderboard and scroll down to the Friday cup line. Read the names of the 3 players under par. You’ll see longtime veterans like Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson sneaking in over the weekend. There is another person on this number that you should know. His name is Willie Mack III – a man who persevered under extreme circumstances. A man who at one point had few resources to progress – until he joined the APGA Tour.
The Advocates Pro Golf Association Tour (APGA) is a non-profit organization that provides African Americans and minority golfers with the opportunity to excel in professional golf and the golf industry. The tour accomplishes its mission by organizing professional tournaments and career development and mentoring sessions.
Kenneth Bentley, who founded the APGA in 2010, played golf with his pals one afternoon and asked his friend Adrian Stills, who competed on the PGA Tour in the late 90s, why there is weren’t more African-American golfers? “He said there was a tour that all the black guys were playing on and there was a lot of camaraderie,” Bentley recalls.
Rocket Mortgage Classic: open field scores | Full coverage
Bentley, a UC Santa Barbara tennis player, knew the impact of providing resources and opportunities to those who could not afford them. In his first year at university, he developed a unique friendship with his professor of political science, Mr. Norris. “I was the first black person to play tennis for UC Santa Barbara. He [Mr. Norris] I didn’t know anything about tennis, “Bentley said,” but went to a tennis store and asked the guys at the store, “Give me the most expensive rackets you have,” and he showed up in my dorm with those snowshoes. “
“He told me he wanted me to have the best chance of success, so he wanted me to have the best equipment made… he didn’t play tennis, so for him that meant the most expensive.”
Bentley thought of Mr. Norris’ gesture during his conversation with Stills and the idea of an African-American / minority tour formed in his mind.
“The belief that Mr. Norris had in me led me to a successful career in tennis and business,” said Bentley. “I want to do the same for these guys. I want to give them the tools to be successful, to make their golf dreams come true, but also to be successful in whatever they want to do.
Thus, the APGA started in 2010 with three tournaments played on long distance courses and $ 4000 in prize money. Over a decade later, the APGA hosts 14 tournaments a year with $ 500,000 in prize money. Fast forward to the Rocket Mortgage Classic and four of five black players on the court face off on the APGA: Tim O’Neal, Josh Bramlett, Harold Varner and his hometown favorite Mack. Mack – a full time player on the APGA Tour – recorded the par on the last hole to make the cut on the count. He had a large gathering watching him and heard cheers from friends. “I wasn’t looking, but I know their voices, so I heard them. It’s exciting just to be able to play in your hometown with your friends and family, ”Mack said after his round.
The 32-year-old has won over 60 mini-touring titles and was recently named 2019 APGA Player of the Year. Watching Mack’s journey continues to inspire Bentley. Mack lived in his car for a year and a half trying to do this on tour. The competition on the APGA led him to a sponsorship from Farmers Insurance and for the first time he had the opportunity to cover his living expenses.
“To see a guy like Willie Mack, who never had the opportunity and now has the opportunity and make the most of it, is really rewarding,” said Bentley.
After his second round, Mack explained how the APGA has helped him and continues to help him and other minority golfers. “APGA gives us all a chance to compete and improve together. It’s really cool to have a tour where I look around and there are people who have similar backgrounds and experiences to what I’ve had.
More and more people are also familiar with APGA. “I played golf in Orange County [California] and someone asked me what I had done and I told them I was the CEO of the APGA tour, ”said Bentley. “The man asked, ‘Is this the tour Kamaiu Johnson is playing on?’ This would never have happened two years ago. Kamaiu and Willie have really become names in golf. Johnson has won 10 mini-tour tournaments and has received invitations from sponsors to participate in PGA Tour tournaments.
“We are the organization that says, hey i believe in you“Bentley said.” A lot of times for disadvantaged kids they don’t always feel like someone believes in them. I start every conversation with our guys and say, I believe in you. That’s why I spend this time working without pay, I believe they can fulfill their dream.