There's a dearth of Black players on the LPGA Tour. This woman wants that to change

Updated 7:31 AM ET, Sun March 7, 2021

(CNN)Made redundant from her job at Lockheed Martin at the age of 55, Clemmie Perry started thinking she needed to find a hobby.

She turned to golf, but was immediately struck by the lack of diversity. So ever since Perry picked up her first set of clubs in 2013, she has made it her mission to bridge the access gap in the sport.
Founded in 1950, the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) is one of the longest-running women's professional sports associations. But the LPGA has historically struggled with a lack of diversity and inclusion in the game.
It took a little more than a decade for the first Black player, Althea Gibson, to join the tour. Fourteen years later Nancy Lopez followed suit, becoming the first Hispanic player to compete on the LPGA Tour.
At the age of 36 Althea Gibson made history after becoming the first African American golfer to earn status on the LPGA Tour. She was also known for her seminal tennis career.
Since 1950, just eight Black players have held full-time membership in LPGA Tour history, according to the organization.
The LPGA says most of its tournaments have approximately 100 to 120 players and fields are based on a "Priority List."
Players in approximately the top 150 are generally considered full-time as they get into a majority of events, the LGPA confirmed to CNN Sport.
Of the more than 530 LPGA Tour members, about 220 of whom are active competitors, there is only one Black player with full-time membership — Mariah Stackhouse — the LPGA confirmed to CNN. Stackhouse is No. 127 in the LPGA's priority list for 2021.
"There are various ways to earn LPGA Tour Membership, including winning an event, advancing through our Qualifying Series, advancing from our developmental tour or earning a certain amount of money in a given year," added the LPGA.
Meanwhile on the LPGA and Symetra Tours combined as few as 2% of players are Black compared with 55% of White competitors, according to statistics provided by the LPGA.
The organisation told CNN: "We are committed long-term to changing the face of golf, making the sport we love more diverse, accessible and inclusive."
Efforts are being made to increase the diversity of the sport from a beginner level, but data from the National Golf Foundation shows that among juniors who first played on a golf course in 2019, about 36% were girls and just over a quarter were "non-Caucasian."

A grassroots game

Perry set up Women Of Color Golf (WOCG), a Black-led non-profit organisation based in Florida to "increase diversity and inclusion in the sport of golf for women and girls." Thus far she has trained 600 ethnic minority women and girls
"I realized I had to make a change for the women and girls behind me," said Perry, who comes from a legacy of changemakers.
Clemmie Perry (right) and WOCG Advisory Board Member, Vasti Amaro (left).
In 1992, her mother became the first Black woman elected to the Hillsborough County School Board, eventually being elected chair three years later. Before that her grandmother was an educator and civil rights leader in Tampa, Florida.
"I never had to learn Black history from a book. They were sitting at my dinner table telling me the stories," says Perry.
It was her family's commitment to fighting for equity that inspired her dedication to community-based service.
"I've seen what the struggle looks like. We've always been champions for social justice," she says.
Perry says one of the biggest barriers to golf is the cost. Training, coaching, travel and green fees aren't cheap.
"If the medium income of an African-American is about $45,000, golf is not going to be on the radar. But you can pick up a basketball, you can pick up a football, it only costs you a pair of tennis shoes to run track," she says.

The burden of representation

Shasta Averyhardt is a 35-year-old Black pro golfer based in Sarasota, Florida who says that she wouldn't have made the LPGA or the Symetra Tour without her parents' financial backing.
Shasta Averyhardt plays a shot on the Symetra Tour during the second round of the Volvik Championship on the Palmer Course at Reunion Resort in Florida in 2013.
Like Perry she emphasizes that the economic obligations of the sport can be burdensome. "You need somebody with you that is fully invested and is going to push you, because you can't do it by yourself," she tells CNN.
As a junior-level golfer she was raised under programmes that gave her access to exclusive country clubs.
But, she says, from an early age she was often one of the few Black players on the course, something that extended into her professional career. In 2010 Averyhardt became the fourth Black golfer to play on the LPGA Tour, making her rookie debut in 2011.