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Diversity is making its way into professional golf


Unless you follow PGA Tour golf closely and watch untold hours of tournament TV broadcasts, you may not know the name Kamaiu (ka-my-yoo) Johnson. Johnson is a 27-year-old professional golfer from Tallahassee, Florida, who became attached to golf in a most improbable way.

As a slightly built Black teenager of 14, Johnson was living in a two-bedroom apartment with his mother, grandmother and five other children. The dwelling was on the perimeter of Haliman Golf Course in Tallahassee.

One day in 2007, as Johnson was making sort of a golf swing with a stick (which had fallen from a tree), by chance he was noticed by Jan Auger, the course’s general manager. When Auger inquired why the boy wasn’t in school, he replied he was being home-schooled. Actually, labeled as a “slow learner” he had dropped out of the eighth grade. He has since earned his GED.

Sensing there was something special about the polite kid, Auger invited him to the course and told him there would be a 9-iron and a bucket of balls waiting for him. The rest is history, albeit a quite circuitous one.

Johnson began doing odd jobs at the golf course, like cleaning carts and painting, in return for rounds of golf for only $1. Picking up cast-off golf clubs and extras from members, he played with a hodge-podge set, but his talent grew.

Johnson worked hard and practiced hard to make up for his late start in the game. For the most part of the last decade he has been grinding on pro mini-tours, including the Florida Professional Tour and the Advocates Pro Golf Association (APGA) Tour.

The APGA was founded in 2010 by CEO Ken Bently, who is a Farmers Insurance Company board member, as a means and opportunity to prepare minority golfers to compete and gain better access in the world of professional golf. Presently the PGA Tour has only four Black players.

Sixty years ago, professional golf had none, until the PGA of America (pre-PGA Tour) rescinded its “Caucasians only” in its bylaws in 1961. Johnson has become the poster child of the fledgling APGA, owing partly to his winning the Tallahassee Open three times and the 2020 APGA Tour championship.

Farmers Insurance has provided funding for APGA Tour events, and has sponsored at least two players, Johnson and Willie Mack III.

“We value diversity and are proud to help support the APGA Tour in its mission to level the playing field for many talented golfers, said Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers.

In late January, Johnson was awarded a sponsor’s invitation to the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Jan. 28-31. Unfortunately, Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 just prior to the start of the tournament, and he had to withdraw. His spot was filled by Mack.

Dr. Charlie Blanchard is a licensed psychologist specializing in sports and leadership. Contact him at docblanchard71@gmail.com.