Good Start

I may be the first, but won't be the last black coach at a top program
May 11, 2008

WHEN I was a kid,the black tobacco-factory workers who filled the fairways of the Winston LakeGolf Course in Winston-Salem, N.C., dressed like Calvin Peete and wore Kangolcaps. One of the former pros at Winston Lake, the late Harold Dunovant, wasamong the first African-American Class A PGA professionals and the founder ofthe National Black Golf Hall of Fame. Over the years all the great blackgolfers came through: Peete, Althea Gibson, Charlie Sifford, Lee Elder and JimThorpe. My own personal golf idol was my dad, Sam Puryear Sr., a scratch golferwho played on the Winston-Salem State team in the 1960s.

I had all of thishistory on my shoulders when I was hired last summer as the men's coach atMichigan State, becoming the first African-American to lead a golf program at aschool in one of the six BCS conferences. For two years I had been an assistantat Stanford, where we won the 2007 NCAA Championship. A player from an opposingteam once asked my guys if I had received the job because of affirmativeaction. That speaks to how few black coaches there are at this level, althoughI don't know why there haven't been more. It simply may be that there aren't alot of young black kids around the country dreaming about being a golf coach. Ithink millions of them fantasize about being Tiger Woods—they would rather havethe glitz and glamour and the fame and fortune.

I know because Iwas the captain at Tennessee State in the early '90s, but I've come to like theother side just as much. I enjoy working with young people, helping to fostertheir dreams. Before Stanford, I was in Atlanta, where for eight years I ranthe East Lake Junior Golf Academy, serving more than 1,000 underprivilegedkids.

I think that asmore people like me come through the system, there will be more black golfcoaches at top programs. More than anything, I'm a prime example of the stridesthat golf has made with minorities. Although there are only 39 blacks among the27,000 Class A PGA members, more blacks are enrolled in professional golfmanagement programs than ever before. When I participated in the inaugural PGATour Minority Internship program in 1992, there were hardly any blacks workingin the industry. Today if you take a quick canvass of the business, you willfind a number of blacks in visible positions across the spectrum. We'll seemore black players emerge as greater numbers get superior equipment,instruction and access.

The best way Iknow to better the lot of blacks in golf is by being the best coach that I canbe to the 12 young men who depend on me for guidance during their collegecareers. In 10 tournaments this season we had a win and five second-placefinishes, and last week we won our second straight Big Ten championship. Nextweek we'll tee off in the NCAA regionals as the 19th-ranked team in thecountry.

My squad isstocked with players from a variety of backgrounds, but I use the same coachingphilosophy that I learned as a kid from the elders at Winston Lake: "Beprepared, be willing to do what others are not, and be willing to go the extramile. And don't leave any stone unturned."

TRUST ME by ALAN SHIPNUCK
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PHOTOMATTHEW MITCHELL/MSU SPORTS INFORMATION (PURYEAR)GOING GREEN Puryear (with Payne Gniewek) and the Spartans won the Big Ten title. PHOTOCORBIS (CORSET) PHOTOWALT DISNEY PICTURES/PHOTOFEST (FANTASIA) PHOTOFRED VUICH (MICHAEL JORDAN) THREE PHOTOS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)