Renee Powell and Mariah Stackhouse stood on top of the ridgeline, separated in age by almost a half century but connected by the bond of a shared ancestral experience and by a love of the game they both acknowledge has not always welcomed those who look like them.
The valley below was green and lush, while sunlight twinkled off the towers of the cityscape behind, just a mile or so to the south but on the edge of another world. Neither woman held a golf club at the time, even though the game at its highest level was another part of their shared experience. This morning at the Bobby Jones Golf Course, a public facility between the Buckhead and Midtown neighborhoods of Atlanta, Georgia, Powell and Stackhouse were there to talk and to share and to educate.
They had only met the day before, the Sunday of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, when Powell walked from the first tee at Atlanta Athletic Club after watching Nelly Korda and Lizette Salas tee off in the final group, to the scoring area behind the 18th green to introduce herself to Stackhouse, who finished her championship just a few minutes later. But while both thought they were meeting for the first time, that wasn’t the case. They had met before, in Miami at a clinic Powell gave at Doral. Stackhouse was 6 at the time and didn’t remember it. Neither did Powell, who gave countless clinics and met thousands of young Black girls in the late 1990s and early 2000s. By the time they met again in Georgia, each woman knew a great deal about the other.
“My parents were very intentional about teaching me the history of the game and about pioneers like Bill Powell and Renee Powell and what they did to advance the game, not just for minority golfers but for everyone,” Stackhouse said. “I think that events like this can be part of a vehicle for change. Clearview golf course and what it stands for in breaking barriers and bringing all people together through the game of golf, that’s what we hope will continue. That’s why we’re here today.”
Located in Canton, Ohio, Clearview Golf Club – or more accurately the Clearview Legacy Foundation – was, indeed, the reason the women were together on Monday at the top tee of the driving range, talking to assembled dignitaries from KPMG, Coca-Cola and other local businesses, as well as nine LPGA Tour players who had stayed in Atlanta an extra day to be part of the festivities.
Powell grabbed a nearby microphone and explained it like this: “The Clearview golf course was founded and built by my father (Bill Powell) back in 1946, 75 years ago. And in 2001, not only did we become what we place in the National Register of Historic Places, we also formed the Clearview Legacy Foundation for Education, Preservation and Turfgrass Research.
“My dad always believed in being inclusive and when he built Clearview, he built it not because he wanted to build a golf course. He built it because he thought that was the only way he could play golf. He wanted a place where people who looked like him and looked like me were welcome.
“When my dad came back from World War II, after he’d spent three years in Scotland and England where he’d been able to play golf – you know, every little town has a golf course in Scotland and England and members would allow (soldiers) to use their clubs and play their courses – when he came back home, he felt that things would have changed. But they hadn’t. He still loved golf. So, he needed to find some way to build a golf course.”
Powell built the first nine holes at Clearview by hand with a shovel at his side and a seed bag round his neck. He did it because too many clubs placed too many race and gender restrictions on the game. His course was open to all from Day 1. That legacy and the education of future generations about how golf can bring everyone together is why Powell and Stackhouse – along with María Fassi, Jane Park, Tiffany Joh, Lauren Kim, Emma Talley, Leona Maguire, Brianna Do, Caroline Inglis and Mo Martin – met in Atlanta.
“Growing up as an Asian-American in the early ’90s, I know what it’s like to be different on the golf course,” Joh said. “That’s why events like this and people like Renee Powell are so inspiring and so important. We have come such a long, long way in the game but events like this are reminders that we need to keep moving forward.”
This wasn’t a typical charity event because Powell isn’t an average player. Every rookie who earns her LPGA Tour card goes through an orientation in which she learns about the pioneers of the LPGA. Powell is a big part of that presentation. When she played the tour in the late 1960s, there were many hotels and restaurants that would suddenly run out of rooms and food when she showed up. She traveled a good bit with Sandra Post and Powell would often joke when they were shown the door at a roadside diner, “They must not like Canadians in here.”
— LPGA (@LPGA) April 14, 2021
During the pandemic last year, Michelle Wie West designed a tie-dye LPGA hoodie to help Powell and the Clearview Legacy Foundation. It became the most popular LPGA logoed item ever and has been seen on the sidelines, in the stands and in locker rooms of NBA, NHL and MLB games. Steph Curry wears his around San Francisco all the time. It’s become the cool sports accessory, even for those who wouldn’t know Powell if she knocked on their door.
“You know, when I left the tour, there was not another African-American girl to join the tour for 20 years,” Powell said later on during the event. “And when I left the tour, Mariah wasn’t even born. To see Mariah and to hear her speak, it’s something special.
“It just shows you that my dad was right. Golf can bring us all together. It is a game that can help lead to change.”
© 2021 Global Golf Post LLC
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