Bill Powell and his daughter, Renee’, shared something more than lineage and a last name. Both shared a love of golf. Both excelled at it. Both overcame the sting of racial prejudice to reach their goals through perseverance.
Dr. Renee’ Powell shared her story as the featured speaker at a recent gathering of the Akron Roundtable. Among those in the audience was a group of elementary and middle school girls who are involved in the First Tee of Akron.
They heard Dr. Powell recount how her father purchased 78 acres of land in East Canton in Stark County in 1946 and planned to build a golf course. Two years later, the nine-hole Clearview Golf Club was opened. And Bill Powell wanted it known that it was opened to the public after he was denied access to many golf courses because he was an African-American, and it was open to people of all races and ethnicity.
During her address, Dr. Powell noted how she learned from the example of her father; that he taught her more than the game of golf. He taught her to work for what you wanted and a person can achieve anything if they want it badly enough and was willing to work hard enough to make it happen.
Dr. Powell wanted to be a professional golfer. She made it happen. But it came at a cost.
She was introduced to the same bias that her father experienced when she became the second African-American to play on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour in the late 1960’s. Steadfast, she competed on the LPGA Tour until 1980 when she left the tour and embarked on a mission that resonates with the objectives of The First Tee both nationally and locally.
Dr. Powell traveled the world teaching the game of golf until 1988 when she returned to the United States to teach the game to inner-city children. Her work resulted in an Honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of St. Andrew’s and she became just the seventh women to be made a member of St. Andrew’s Country Club, the home of golf in Scotland. In attendance to witness it all was her father.
“Is there anyone you can think of that embodies the work of First Tee more than Dr. Powell?” asked Frank Stams, the Executive Director of First Tee of Akron. “She not only extends the reach of the game of golf, but she teaches how the game mirrors the way one should live their life away from the game.”
That is the central theme of The First Tee. It is an educational program that asks its participants to adhere to the program’s Nine Core Values: Confidence, Courtesy, Honesty, Integrity, Judgement, Perseverance, Respect, Responsibility and Sportsmanship.
First Tee Akron is based at Mud Run Golf Club on S. Hawkins Avenue in Akron. The organization is opening registration for the 2016 year. Children aged 6 to 17 are encouraged to participate. To register, visit the website at www.firstteeakron.org to register online.