Cameron Champ will become the fifth Black man to play in the Masters when he arrives at Augusta National this weekend. Raised in Sacramento, California, Champ was raised by a Black father, Jeff, and a white mother, Lisa.
Growing up, he was inspired by his grandfather, Mack, to play golf. The Navy veteran endured the racism that permeated through the Jim Crow south as he pursued the game of golf as a place of freedom and relaxation. Mack Champ had dreams of his grandson playing at the Masters one day, but he may have hoped it would be under better circumstances.
As police killings occurred across the country, Cameron Champ was undoubtedly one of the more vocal players on the PGA Tour. Champ first saw the video of Jacob Blake Jr. being shot by police as he made his way to the BMW Championship in Houston.
"The whole Jacob Blake thing just tipped me over the iceberg because people made assumptions about him because he had a criminal record," he said.
"For me, it was just 'enough is enough.' I wanted to say something because obviously it's going to disrupt some things and people are going to be uncomfortable. Race is a touchy subject. I knew that I probably wouldn't be the first to get asked about it on the PGA Tour, but I knew that I probably would be the most vocal and the most truthful about it."
"It's just spreading awareness and sticking by what I believe in and what I believe needs to be changed," Champ said.
"I've seen a lot of other athletes speak out about it. It's a situation where people don't want to talk about it, which I get, but at the same time, it's reality. It's what we live in. People ignore it for so long, and then it gets to a point where it just blows up. And this is just the tipping of the iceberg. Change needs to happen."
Champ's comments and attire were met with criticism. A headline from a Pro Golf Weekly story read, "Dressed for a Protest, Cameron Champ Shoots 7-Over 77." The media outlet attempted to call Champ a "burgeoning leftwing activist" as an insult.
PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan has issued a statement in response to this summer's stretch of police killings. Monahan calls on the PGA to come together and have discussions on race. However, conversation will not be enough. Action must accompany discussion to increase Black representation in professional golf.
Of the 29,000 certified PGA club professionals, less than 200 are Black. More than 90% of the PGA Tour is white. As it pertains to the Masters, Augusta, the organization that hosts the tournament, didn't have any Black members until 1990.
Moving forward, increasing Black representation and Black leadership will be vital. This year, Champ will become the fifth Black man to play in the Masters. Joining him, Lee Elder, the first Black man to play in the Masters, will be honored.
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