How one golf apparel company has a unique plan for helping to make golf more inclusive
In an effort to make golf more inclusive, apparel company Rhoback announced this week the launching of its Drive Change program to raise awareness and financially support golfers of color climbing the ranks of professional golf. Working with Rhoback ambassador and rising professional golfer Trey Valentine, the company identified eight golfers of color deserving of financial support, then designed a golf shirt of which all profits will go toward tournament-related travel and lodging for the group.
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The solid black golf shirt is available for pre-order and is expected to ship at the end of August. Available in men’s or women’s, the ultra-soft polo features the “Drive Change” logo on the sleeve, matching the brand’s distinctive Rhoback Ridge stripe design on the back.
Rhoback’s relationship with Valentine started about a year ago, which led to ongoing discussions about the challenging financial barriers for players attempting to find success in professional golf. Valentine currently plays on the PGA Mackenzie Tour in Canada and the Advocates Pro Golf Association, a tour established to promote more diversity in pro golf.
“Any athlete knows, to be successful, you have to be able to fail over and over again before learning to win,” Valentine said. “Unfortunately, in golf, failure is often too expensive for many to break through.”
The Drive Change program aims to break down this barrier, specifically for people of color in golf, says Rhoback co-founder Kevin Hubbard. With the help of Valentine and fellow Rhoback ambassador José de Jesús Rodríguez from Mexico, they identified additional golfers of color working toward PGA, European Tour or LPGA Tour status in need of support.
“We originally thought the program would include four or five golfers,” Hubbard said. “We quickly found that the need was a lot greater and there were so many great candidates for the program that the number quickly doubled to eight.”
In addition to Valentine and Rodriguez, the Rhoback Change Drivers selected for the program include: Ginger Howard (Philadelphia), Kamaiu “Mymy” Johnson (Tallahassee, Fla.), Kayla Jones (Bronx, N.Y.), Joe Hooks (Detroit), Joey Stills (Pensacola, Fla.) and Leon Fricker (England). To learn more about the Change Drivers, visit rhoback.com.
In addition to proceeds from the shirt sales, Rhoback is donating $5,000 to the travel fund, which will be split evenly among the group of eight. The company acknowledges that this initiative is only a start, but has committed to providing ongoing support to golfers of color and has challenged the rest of the golf industry to follow.
“We hope to start a chain reaction of others in the industry stepping up to address the need, Hubbard said. “Who knows, maybe an airline, hotel or travel company will find a way to make an even bigger difference. We’ll support whatever is going to make the biggest impact.”