Following the murder of George Floyd in America last year, I felt a need and a desire to be better educated about the subject of colour. Being born into an upper middle class white family, going to a private school in the 80s, and being a member of a nice golf club in Surrey, I am becoming more aware of the lens through which I have seen and navigated the world.
As part of that education and when starting my blog, I realised how white golf is despite the most famous golfer in the world, Tiger Woods, being black. In fact, I tried to think of a time when I had played with a Black golfer and I could only think of one, Moss Ngoasheng from South Africa.
I met Moss in the second round of the 2015 World Amateur Tour event at Monfortaine Golf Club just outside Paris, we both played off 7 and had shot the same score the day before hence why we were paired together. We got on from the start, Moss explained that he was trying to play the top 100 courses around the world and had just come back from Japan and Korea where he had ticked off the necessary courses to achieve his goal. The only way he was ever going to play Monfortaine was to join the tour and play in this event. We had a great game and he beat me by a shot. After the round we both realised we didn’t have a tie for the tournament dinner and ended up buying a member’s tie from the pro shop which was totally against the club rules but fortunately enough the lady in the pro shop had no clue of this particular rule.
We meet up again at the pre-dinner drinks and commented on what nice ties we were both wearing!! I asked Moss as he was from South Africa, black and of a certain age whether he had ever come across Nelson Mandela? He told me he had shared a cell with Mandela in Robben Island so you can imagine some of the stories he told me over a couple of red wines. Moss had been a young member of the ANC and was taken under Mandela’s wing whilst in prison where he became well educated. He became South Africa’s Economic adviser from 1995 – 2000 and now is deputy Chairman of Kansai Plascon Africa Ltd. A remarkable story. Moss loves his golf playing in the Alfred Dunhill Pro Am every year and is also very involved with South African golf and growing the game. We still keep in touch and look forward to our next game, he may even take me on in “A round with Niall Challenge” later in the year.
Fast forward to June 2021 and I saw a post on Instagram from Black British Golfers and was intrigued to know more and how I could help promote the organisation’s ambitions which among others are to make a past time steeped in so much tradition and negative perception, accessible to the black community. At the heart of their ambitions is making golf a pathway for Black youngsters.
Ray Nyabola who is the Founder of the British Black Golfers got in touch with me and I suggested that someone from the group play with me on one of my top100 reviews. Much to my delight he chose Frank Skinner (No not the white comedian from Birmingham who co-wrote Footballs Coming Home) but a lovely man originally from Barbados who had been a para legal in the city for over 30 years.
Frank had been one of the founders of African Caribbean Golf Association set up in 1992 travelling across the UK playing golf . Up until recently he had been a member of Farleigh in Surrey and was keen to support Ray and British Black Golfers. Frank was keen to take on “A Round with Niall Challenge “ . In his past Frank had been a good batsman playing county school boy cricket and so was competitive playing off 11 meaning I had to give 2 shots.
The course I was reviewing was Camberley Heath in Surrey a Top 100 course from National Club Golfers 2017 review. I had also asked Rich Barker the Commercial Director of the PGA to join us as the Association are promoting diversity and thought it would be a great connection for British Black Golfers and giving Black youngsters a pathway to a potential career in golf.
I enjoyed listening to Frank and how he had grown the African Caribbean Golf Association and back in the day he had an open line to Sir Michael Bonallack who was the Secretary of the R&A in the 80’s and 90’s who would ask him about black golfers and how they could help them.
Camberley Heath is a lovely course and will tell you more about the club in my blog post with Rich Barker but after the front 9 I was 2 up on Frank and I think both our games were struggling due to the amount of talking we were doing along the fairways.
Frank impressed on me the need for role models in golf for black youngsters to take up the game. He regularly plays with DJ Spoony, Trevor Nelson and Andy Cole` but one of the people he mentioned who stood out was Julia Regis the wife of the late great footballer Cyrille Regis. Cyrille introduced Julia to golf 10 years ago and they were both avid golfers. Ray sent me an article where Julia shares how playing golf has helped her manage anxiety since his death. She is keen to see more Black women enjoy the game of golf and had organised an introduction to golf event at her club but unfortunately it was postponed due to the pandemic. She has reorganised it for later this year
My game with Frank went to the very last hole where I managed to sneak a win but the result didn’t matter. As we sat in the club house Frank continued my education and now I am committed to helping promote Black British Golfers, if they will have me and hope to tell you all more about our efforts in the weeks and months to come.
As the whole world is finding racial equality is not an easy thing to achieve but if a political prisoner can become a leader of a nation I am sure that we can grow the number of Black golfers in this country and around the world.
Until next time