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Game Changers

A persistent teacher through words and actions

February 28, 2021

The author with his father, Samuel Puryear Sr.

In celebration of Black History Month, Golf Digest is asking a collection of Black men and women in golf to reflect on a figure who influenced their paths in the game. Samuel Puryear is the head men’s golf coach at Howard University.

I have worked in the golf industry for more than 25 years. I have played golf for 44 years. I have truly experienced some incredible highs in the game. I have served as a collegiate golf coach, an author, director of a junior golf program and worked with countless young people from all over the world.

None of this would have been possible had it not been for my dad. Samuel G. Puryear Sr. exposed me to a game at 6 years old that neither one of us knew would become such a significant part of my life. My dad was a Small College All-American in golf in 1965 at Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was an incredible player, but more importantly, he is an amazing human being.

When I was growing up, he never told me that I couldn’t go to the course with him. He paid for me to receive regular golf lessons and gave me a pocket full of money for grilled-cheese sandwiches and Tahitian Treat drinks in the golf grill. Although he didn’t allow me to play him on the course most of the time, he constantly encouraged me—and he let me compete with him on and around the green. To this day, he is easily the best putter I have ever seen. There is no mistake why I constantly tell my players that I am now the best putter in the world. I learned from the best.

My dad was, indeed, the impetus for my career. He pumped me full of positives, encouraged me to have a ton of fun and to follow my dreams, and reiterated that discipline was the key to success. He constantly reminded me of the importance of integrity and respect. He always referenced that on the course, the only color that mattered was the red numbers. Scores under par always won. Once we tee it up, we all have the same opportunity to succeed.

I have asked myself a lot over the years about what my career path might have been if my dad hadn’t introduced me to the game. There is absolutely no way I would have crafted a career in golf. It also makes me smile to know that I have tried to expose the game to those less fortunate. God loves a cheerful giver. My dad is perhaps the most generous person I have ever met.

I grabbed the proverbial golf torch at an early age and sought to make my dad proud. He was truly my golf role model and my golf hero. I was blessed. He tells me all the time that he is proud of what I have been able to accomplish in the game. To me this simply means: job well done.