by Tim Maginley
Growing up in Staten Island, NY I played all types of sports, but Basketball was my main passion. That was until the spring before I turned 13 when I learned to play golf. I was playing so much basketball that my knees developed Osgood-Schlatter disease (really sore knees) and the doctors said I shouldn’t play all year round. Inside on the wood during the winter would be better then on the concrete during the summer. “play baseball or pick up tennis or golf” is what they said. My Dad, [ George Maginley was a Phys Ed. and Science teacher in New York City for over 30 years. -Editor] – he played some golf in college, and a few times during the year and he said he’d teach me. So off to the Herman’s sporting goods store to get some clubs. My first set had a Driver, 3wood, 3,5,7,9, irons and a putter and I got the book “How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time”by Tommy Armour. My dad taught me the grip and swing and we’d go out to the driving range as much as we could. I hit balls at that driving range for months before I got on the course. Not only did I have show my dad that I could hit the ball, but I needed to show him I knew the etiquette and most of the rules. So he got you ready to go out for a round. Do you remember your first round? What got you hooked? I enjoyed hitting balls on the range, and spending time with my dad, however, the first time I played 18 holes at Silver Lake GC, I was hooked for sure. The green grass, the perfect greens, the hills and water, it was beautiful!! I couldn’t believe how many times I rode my bike past it or drove past it in a car on the way to a baseball or basketball game. It was like a world all to its own. What excited me the most was the challenge of it all. Putting all the shots together I learned at the range and hitting the ball straight and getting it in the hole was hard. But it was great, when you were on the course nothing else mattered. I wasn’t that good when I first started. Hitting off the mats at the driving range wasn’t the same as hitting off the grass at the course, but I was determined to get better. So reading my book, practicing with and without my dad I got better. It wasn’t basketball, but I did enjoy playing and when I played with my dad it was even better. I enjoyed all those things about golf, the challenge, beautiful scenery, time with my dad, but what I enjoyed the most, what fueled my determination to get better was the COMPETITION. Once I found out that they had tournaments for juniors I was all in!
I’ve always been a competitive guy, in every sport. From basketball to badminton (Howard University 1983). Now, Staten Island was a very small borough of New York City when it came to youth sports. If you played Parks Department, CYO (Catholic Youth Organization), YMCA sports whether it was baseball, basketball or football you’d end up playing with and against the same guys. So when I started play in junior tournaments I did see a lot of the guys I played other sports with, or should I say played against. None of my friends or my brothers played golf, if I didn’t play with my dad I’d go to course and play as a single. Hook up with another group or play by myself. The tournaments were tough, the pressure and nervousness came from different angles. I was new to the game and wasn’t as good as I was in basketball. The other guys I knew were much better and have played longer. I thought shooting a foul shot at the end of a game was pressure until I was on the first tee at a tournament with everyone watching. The other was being the ONLY black kid that played. Silver Lake GC is located on the North shore of Staten Island where there was a higher concentration of minorities. Though that was true I can’t remember seeing another African-American on the course other than my dad or my Uncle Jim or Uncle Charlie.
This was the mid 70’s and the pros you saw on T.V., the top players you looked up to were Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Weisscoff, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, not a Tiger Woods insight! I didn’t think a lot of black people played. That was until I went to Washington DC and played with my uncle Charlie. He took me to the legendary Langston GC where EVERYBODY on the course was black!! Yeah, everybody!! He talked about Charles Sifford, Jim Dent, Jim Thorpe and he introduced me to Lee Elder (the first African American to play in the Masters). One summer I followed Calvin Peete in a tournament at Langston. It was amazing!! Their pictures were on the wall in the Clubhouse. Now I had some more players to look up to.
Even though golf started out as a sport for me to play during the summer, I quickly caught the passion for it. I watched of golf on T.V., read a lot of instruction books and practiced and played a lot. It was difficult sometimes because none only friends played golf, just me. I played in some junior tournaments, went to clinics, I really wanted to get better. I really enjoyed the tournaments. I never won any, but I came in 2nd a few times. We always had to play early in the morning, 6am. There was nothing like being the first ones on the course. Having the sun come up and burn off the mist was always a beautiful sight. It was the competition that kept me coming back; it was my only individual sport. No one to count on but yourself, your decisions, what risks do you wanted to take on the course and if things went bad you had to pump yourself up It wasn’t only the physical challenge, but the mental one as well. I was always a team player in all the sports I played, especially Basketball, so this was very different for me. Basketball was still my main sport, but by the time I got to high school Golf became my second, replacing baseball. You couldn’t play baseball and golf because they were both spring sports and you had to choose. I was a pitcher and liked baseball, however I enjoyed Golf more. I played on the Brooklyn Technical High School Golf Team for 3 years so coming from Staten Island I took the bus to the Staten Island Ferry, then the Subway (R) to school. Riding all that way with my clubs always got some stares. Our team was pretty good; most of the school didn’t even know we had one. I was # 2 man on the team and we mad it to the playoffs a couple of times. I enjoyed playing an individual sport in a team setting. It was here that you got the encouragement, camaraderie, and coaching that you received in other team sports.
The other thing I enjoyed was playing different courses. Growing up on Staten Island we had three public courses. (Silver Lake, LaTourette and South Shore) While playing at Tech we played Dyker Beach, Marine Park, Van Cortland Park, Pelham Split Rock. I transferred to Curtis High School for my senior year where I played on the golf and basketball team. My Mother’s side of the family is from Washington DC and every summer growing up my Grandmother would rent a beach house at Highland Beach down in Annapolis. I’d go down there for a few weeks every summer with my brothers to fish, hang at the beach and play golf with my Uncle Charlie. We’d mostly play three courses Eisenhower G C in Annapolis, Rock Creek, and Langston in DC. I always enjoyed Langston the most. It was always inspirational seeing all my fellow black golfers. The things I remember and looked forward to most was driving the golf cart (always walked in New York), getting some lessons and tips, and stacking my game up against my Uncle Charlie. I never took lessons until my early thirties and Charlie always did, so I looked forward to his “second hand” lessons. Charlie is a really good golfer and has taught me a lot. It took me until my late 20’s until I was a real match for him. While I worked in New York I really didn’t have a lot of time to play golf. Mostly I played when I visited my dad in California or my uncle in Washington. I really didn’t start playing a lot again until I moved to the DC in the 1990’s. Once I had 4 to 6 choices for golf courses to play, now there were 30+ within an hour drive. For the first few years I played a lot and my handicap was really coming down (5.7). I got married and family and work really took a lot of my time and I backed off my golf some.
Things have changed a lot in the past few years. I retired from The Washington Post as a distributor for 13 years and had a Total Hip Replacement and got divorced. My sons are pretty much on their own. I’ve had sometime to think about what I want to do for the next 5 to 10 years. Early in my 30’s I thought about having the time to work on my game and try to qualify for the Champions Tour when I turned 50. I also thought about getting certified with the PGA to work in the Golf business. Either way I know I want to work in the golf industry. There are 28,000 PGA Professionals and only 500+ minorities that’s around 2%, While 21% of the people who play are minorities. That’s an issue I’d really like to make difference in. The biggest hurdle for me in getting certified is passing the Playing Ability Test (PAT) which is basically shooting two rounds in the mid 70’s in the same day, 36 holes. I was working towards taking the (PAT) in the fall in 2010, but the pain in my hip, which started in 2008, finally got to the point where I had to have the surgery. So in November 2010 I got the anterior hip replacement (same one Tom Watson had) and have been getting my golf game back. The hip feels great and I wish I had gotten it done 2 years earlier. I hadn’t played a lot in the past few years and getting back to where I was has been tougher than I thought it would be. I put on some weight since the surgery and have gotten a lot tighter. So I’m working on my weight and flexibility, as well as, my swing. I was planning on taking the PAT on August 22, 2011, but I think my time table was a little too optimistic. So 2012 will be my year. The University of Maryland, Eastern Shore offers the PGA Management Program and I’m applying for it as a backup. I’d really rather work at a golf course fulltime then take a lot of classes. So the plan is to get back to focusing on my golf game and future career. Get as good as I can and see where that takes me. I’m still very competitive and want to compete on the highest level I can. I created www.NubianGreensGolf.com to share my passion for golf and playing it as a golfer that happens to be black. So follow my journey and wish me luck!