Golf has historically been perceived as a predominantly white sport by many. This is still the case even at an HBCU like N.C. Central University where golfer Camron Ratliff finds himself apart of the minority.
With his Dad being a former NFL player, many people expected Ratliff to follow in his father’s footsteps of playing football.
Ratliff recalled one day going with his dad to the golf course and being encouraged to try the new sport. After seeing his son’s swing, Ratliff’s father was impressed.
“He kept telling me that I had potential and whatnot but I didn’t believe him,” Ratliff said. “I just wanted to keep playing football.”
Ratliff didn’t realize that his father’s advice was right until he began high school During his time in high school, Ratliff excelled at the sport enough to earn a scholarship at N.C. Central.
Despite being a Division-1 athlete, Ratliff recognized that the treatment of African Americans on the golf course was different from other golfers.
“We all play the game the same way [but] you do see the difference in how white people in a sense treat black people in the game,” Ratliff explained. “If I were to step on the golf course, a random white person may look at me and be like ‘Oh this guy can’t even play but then I’ll get on the course and bust him.”
Ratliff admitted at times it can be challenging on the golf course as he has experienced his fair share of racism.
“Where’s your daddy at?” was once asked Ratliff by a white golfer while on the course. He also remembered being called the “N” word by a passerby.
“Stuff like that happens,” Ratliff said. “As a black golfer, you may get overlooked depending on where you are at in the world on the golf course. You just have to acknowledge it.”
Ratliff not only has to earn respect from other golfers but his peers too.
“I hear [criticism] from my own people,” Ratliff laughed. “Some people look at me and be like ‘He’s white-washed, he plays golf.’ I’ve heard it several times.”
Despite the criticism, Ratliff hopes that more African Americans will get more involved in golf instead of viewing it as a “chump” sport.
“If anything, golf will expand your mind,” Ratliff concluded. “It’s not just hitting a ball. It helps you think.”