Flashes golfer breaks the mold

Shamir Marshall of the womens golf team.. Photo by Juliana Guevara.

Shamir Marshall of the women’s golf team.. Photo by Juliana Guevara.

Grant Engle

The Kent State women’s golf program has fielded a diverse team for 14 years. The team has included golfers from Argentina, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and England.

However, Shamira Marshall of nearby Macedonia, Ohio, adds a diverse quality to the team that very few college programs have; an African American golfer.

“Most tournaments we play, I’m the only black player out there,” Marshall said. “And if there’s another black golfer out there, I know them.”

Marshall said she played “every sport except golf” as a kid. But after she required knee surgery at 15 years old, she focused on golf at the urging of her grandmother.

Marshall’s grandmother thought it was a good opportunity for Shamira to earn a scholarship, and she was right.

The Bill Dickey Scholarship Association offers scholarships to young minorities who do well in school and play golf. Marshall earned a scholarship from the association when she finished third at the Bill Dickey Invitational in 2008. Cheyenne Woods, niece of Tiger Woods, finished in first place.

Marshall said going to the tournament proved to her that she was not the only black female golfer in the country. She also said that feeling isolated can be difficult, and networking at the tournament allowed her to make friends who know what it’s like to get strange looks when they step on the course.

Although Marshall said she never felt like she was blatantly discriminated against, she said she experienced some awkward moments as a young golfer.

“You can just feel it when someone stares at you for just a little too long,” Marshall said. “It used to really get to me when I was younger, but it happened so many times that I don’t even notice it now.”

Andrea Bourdeaux, executive director of the Bill Dickey Scholarship Association, described Marshall as “a wonderful young lady,” and said she thought Marshall benefitted from playing in the association’s tournament.

“I think the first year she played was a great experience,” Bourdeaux said. “It was nice for her to see and play with people that looked like her.”

High school students don’t necessarily have to golf for a college team to win the Bill Dickey Scholarship. Bourdeaux said the association isn’t looking to just manufacture pro golfers.

“In my opinion, I don’t believe there is another sport that teaches the important life skills that golf does,” Bourdeaux said. “It teaches discipline, and golf is a game of integrity. Scoring is on the honor system. These are skills that young people can use for the rest of their lives.”

Kent State Head Coach Mike Morrow, who has been the head coach of the women’s golf team since the program’s inception in 1997, said that he has never even thought about the race or ethnicity of his golfers.

Morrow said that he knew about Marshall since she was in middle school, as she competed against his daughter Mandi in junior golf tournaments around Ohio. Mandi is also currently on the women’s golf team at Kent State.

“I didn’t get to know her until I recruited her, but I had seen her play for three or four years at that point,” Morrow said. “I could see then how she handled herself, and I was glad she came to Kent State.”

As for why the game hasn’t caught on in the African American community, Marshall said there could be a myriad of reasons.

She cited the fact that golf is expensive and that many black youths are directed toward more traditional and less expensive sports like football or basketball.

Even with the emergence of Tiger Woods, Marshall said that the absence of a female professional superstar may have something to do with the lack of black golfers in college right now.

However, Marshall, Morrow and Bourdeaux were all quick to point out that there are several black female high school golfers that show major potential.

“The change is coming,” Morrow said. “There are some really talented players coming through right now. You’ve seen some of it with Tiger Woods in the men’s game, and the women’s game has always lagged a little behind.”

Marshall said that she doesn’t plan to attempt playing professionally, but she always wants to keep the game in her life and would encourage her future children to play.

“I want them to play any sport they want,” Marshall said. “But I want them to know that golf is out there. It’s a great game, and I think more people would play if it was introduced to them.”

Contact Grant Engle at [email protected].