SAN FRANCISCO – Day by day, feat by feat, dollar by dollar, Stephen Curry’s sphere of influence is expanding. He is the seed from which the Warriors have sprouted. His presence is at every level of basketball. And somehow that seems only the beginning.
Curry is stubbornly chasing his unfathomable dream. He’s rejecting the long odds and his pounding on the walls of impossibility is too loud to ignore.
He’s resolute about transforming golf, so long synonymous with exclusion, into a game for all colors and genders. Moreover, his efforts are being heard.
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The latest to officially recognize Curry’s mission is the World Golf Hall of Fame, which on Tuesday announced the Warriors superstar will receive the Charlie Sifford Award, which honors those committed to progressive diversity in the game and is named after the first Black man granted membership to the Professional Golf Association (PGA).
“It’s, hopefully, a validator of the work that we’re doing with the Underrated Golf Tour and Howard (University),” Curry said. “And, hopefully, some things in the pipeline to keep that energy and momentum going.”
The Underrated Golf Tour, conceived by Curry in 2021, concluded its second season in August at the Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City. The tour made five stops and expenses exceeded $4 million, so it’s significant that an impressive group of sponsors are lining up behind Curry.
The golf program at Howard University, a historically Black college, had been dormant for a half century until Curry came along. He heard the pitch by a determined student, realized the potential, and opened his wallet pulled out $6 million in 2019 to resuscitate the program.
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Both the men’s and women’s teams at Howard have since won multiple championships.
“It’s always nice when you get to see the vision of what we’re doing come to life, in terms of putting these young men and women on stage,” Curry said. “Whether they’re playing on TV or getting access to tournaments they didn’t have access to before. And a Division I team being in existence that wasn’t three years ago.”
That Curry’s own golf ability is gaining broader recognition is a factor in growing the game. A global celebrity thanks to his basketball career, seeing him on the course allows the next generation to visualize what’s possible.
He doesn’t need the publicity -- or the adulation that comes with well-intentioned acts on a regular basis. He can play on just about any course he desires, but his desire is to provide the same opportunity for those on the Underrated Tour, as well as those who might not have considered golf.
“This is for young kids to see themselves on the course and understand there is a road map for them if they want to pursue golf at a higher level,” Curry said. “And also, golf being the vehicle to create opportunities for these kids in terms of education, networking, character development, workforce training and opening their eyes to different industries and different careers outside of golf.
“Changing lives in that way, we’ll being able to tell those stories more consistently. And, eventually, they won’t be the exception to the rule.”
The Sifford Award is Curry’s second notable honor within the golf community this year. He’d rather see progress than earn praise.
“It’s a call that, hopefully, things are slowly changing,” Curry said. “That means more work needs to be done. But there are a lot of ambassadors and champions and people who have supported me in my adventures on this mission.”
See, Curry’s first award this year was being named the 2023 Ambassador of Golf by PGA Tour champions. He is the first athlete outside professional golf to earn the distinction.
A few days after accepting the award in Ohio in July, Curry strolled onto the course at the Edgewood Tahoe resort course and snagged a hole-in-one on the way to become the first Black participant to win the American Century Golf Championship.
With progress come firsts. And milestones.
The Sifford Award is scheduled to be presented June 10, 2024, during the U.S. Open in North Carolina. As much as it would mean to accept it in person, Curry would rather be preparing for Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
The man has twin passions. There is basketball, which meets his needs and provides a platform. And there is golf, a place to put his platform to work meeting the needs of those who dare to dream.
The latter may someday have the greater impact on society.