Steph Curry’s underrated golf tour puts gender and race equity in the spotlight

Stephen Curry knows the importance of his work in trying to diversify golf. On Tuesday, his underrated golf tour ended in San Francisco, giving 26 athletes from black and brown communities experience on a professional-style tour across the country.

The Golden State Warriors guard, who fully funded the tour, paused trying to identify a moment that sums up his feelings. He chooses one a few hours earlier.

“One of the girls came over and immediately started crying,” he said, standing on the 16th hole at TPC Harding Park after a series of video and photo ops. “Right before one of the biggest rounds of her life, but she let out that emotion and how much it means to her that we’re creating this opportunity.”

Tuesday concluded the two-day event at Harding Park, where Ashley Shaw and Roman Solomon won the women’s and men’s Curry Cup titles respectively. The 26 athletes invited to compete at the end of a four-stop tour were evenly distributed: 13 girls and 13 boys between the ages of 8 and 18.

Curry has long been an advocate for gender equity in sports. In 2018, he wrote a Players’ Tribune article on gender pay equity. In 2021, he donated an undisclosed sum of money to Davidson University, his alma mater, for a women’s athletic scholarship foundation.

He wrote a thesis on promoting gender equity through sport to graduate from Davidson, 12 years after playing there. He bonded with WNBA guard Sabrina Ionescu, who hails from East Bay, while championing the league and women’s basketball.

“It ties into everything I do,” Curry said. “Especially with the Underrated brand, with basketball and golf, we even have participation with girls and boys. It’s a non-negotiable with how we want to do everything. We use the word fairness for a reason. .

The Underrated website lists fairness as one of its three main pillars, along with access and opportunity, all words Curry repeated on Tuesday. Only 8% of professional golfers are women – 9.5% are black and 14% are Latina.

In 2019, Curry donated more than $1 million to Howard University, one of the nation’s most prestigious historically black colleges, to launch its men’s and women’s Division I golf programs. The school hadn’t hosted varsity golf since the 1970s, when it was a Division II program. Curry has pledged to support the program for six years.

Golf has a history of exclusion, something Curry has spoken about at length since adding the sport to the Underrated brand, which had previously worked in basketball. His goal for the Underrated Golf Tour is not only to provide opportunities for kids in communities that have traditionally not had equal access, but also to open up a pipeline for pros.

Shaw, 14, plays in Arizona and dreams of playing in the LPGA, or even the PGA one day, “because they make the most money there.”

She started acting when she was 7, but said she started taking it seriously when she was 10.

Underrated’s varied pool of players includes stories like his own and that of Hope Hall, who travels to Dartmouth this week to compete for his golf team.

Hall, who finished second, two shots behind Shaw, was introduced to golf when she was 3 years old. Born premature at 28 weeks, her parents gave her a plastic golf club to help her develop her motor skills.

“We had to move him outside when I started denting the walls,” said Hall, whose sister, Alana, also played on Tuesday. “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t training in the yard.”

Siham Ibrahim plays golf with his family in Southern California. When her parents found the Underrated tour, they signed her up right away.

“I want to get a scholarship and play college,” said Ibrahim, a ninth-grader from Culver City High. “My season is coming up, so I’m just going to keep training.”

Dartmouth coach Alex Kirk was on hand to watch Hall play. Shaw and Ibrahim had their families waiting for them on the 18th hole.

Underrated covered all player travel costs for the tour, which made stops in Chicago, Phoenix, Houston and Tampa, Fla. before San Francisco.

“Everyone knows how expensive golf is,” Curry said. “Between access to the right facilities and programs and coaches, equipment, all that, a lot of kids are being left behind, and there’s a lot of talent.”

Marisa Ingemi is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]

Michael C. Ford