DALY CITY – What began as a quest with an unimaginable goal now is a high-speed campaign for Stephen Curry. Having altered the geometry of basketball at every level around the globe, the leader of the Golden State Warriors is determined to diversify a sport long comfortable with apartheid.
Hold on. Before dismissing the mission as unattainable – he’s trying to go where Tiger Woods did not – be warned. Curry already has his own tour, and it is gaining momentum.
Year 2 of the Underrated Golf tour concluded Tuesday at gorgeous Lake Merced Golf Club, which did not admit its first Black members until 1987 – a few months before Curry was born – and admitted its first female in 1992. The power of lawsuits opened those doors to a select few.
And now, here comes Curry, committed to opening doors to hundreds today and maybe thousands tomorrow.
“It’s very reflective of where I’m at in my career,” said Curry, who will attend his 15th NBA training camp Oct. 2. “And it’s the reach that you have and the appreciation for all the ways that you can leave the game of basketball in a better place, create new opportunities in golf and carve a lane of what ‘impact’ truly means with the gifts and blessings that I’ve been given.”
Curry, who loves golf at least as much as he loves basketball, began this march four years ago by personally funding millions to restart the program at Howard University, the historically Black college in Washington, D.C.
Golden State Warriors
Curry launched Underrated Golf 16 months ago, and the tour made five stops in 2022.
The official mission is to provide equity, access and opportunity to deserving student-athletes from underserved communities who might not otherwise be exposed to the full benefits of the sport. The mission is to increase the participation of competitive golfers from diverse backgrounds, and to engage corporate partners for mentoring, networking and visibility.
This year signifies a growth spurt, with larger crowds, higher visibility and fuller traveling parties – all in no small part due to the numerous sponsors willing to join Curry on this endeavor.
“This is awesome,” said Edwin Peña, a Puerto Rico native whose 14-year-old son, Evan, finished third in the boys group. “We had nothing like this when I was a kid. No way. This is blessing for all of us. To have an opportunity to be here, with all these great people, the staff, everything. It’s beautiful.”
Evan’s journey to the game began at age 4 with a Fisher Price golf set that didn’t wreck their home in Toa Alta, about 20 miles southwest of San Juan. He won his first tournament, in Puerto Rico, at age 7. He qualified for the Underrated tour last summer and won the tournament’s stop in Tampa.
The 2023 tour had stops at Park West Palm in West Palm Beach (June 25-27), Firestone Country Club in Akron (July 6-8), Paiute Golf Resort in Las Vegas (July 18-20) and Chambers Bay in Seattle (Aug. 7-9) before concluding at Lake Merced with the Curry Cup championship.
“The model that we established last year, with the upper echelon of venues that opened their doors to host us, we’ve doubled down on that,” Curry said. “There were four new regional stops. A new Curry Cup venue in the Bay. All great locations with a rich golf history or well-known in the golf community for great experiences on and off the course.”
More than 30 golfers of at least six different ethnicities and from all over the country and as far away as Qatar competed at Lake Merced. Hairstyles ran the gamut, from braids on both genders to the tight trim of Roman Solomon (16-year-old son of former MLB star Bobby Bonilla) to the full Afro sported by 17-year-old Lucky Cruz, who won the boys championship. Róisín Scanlon, the 16-year-old daughter of a Jamaican mother and Irish father, won the girls title.
“We all want to win,” said Blayne Brown, 16, who lives with her parents in Riverside, “but we all support each other. It’s like a family.”
Brown wanted to take up acting until she started following her father around the course. Bitten by the “golf bug,” she turned her attention to the links. She is, according to her parents, “a natural” golfer.
The Underrated tour is not a golf school, but it has elements of a mobile academy since it offers not only opportunities to play but also aims to teach life lessons. Will Lowery of NBC’s Golf Channel is the tour ambassador, part-time coach and often works with Curry to promote the game among people of color.
The Underrated tour plans to go international next year. As is, the top three finishers of each gender earned a chance to play in Europe.
But the entire operation comes back to the basketball player. To Curry, as it is his brainchild.
“There’s a lot of clarity and intentionality,” he said. “There’s a path forward of how I can permeate the game of golf in a way that can hopefully change these kids’ lives, change the perspective on what access and opportunity and equity really means in the game. Showing it, not just saying it.
“The game of golf has given me so much. I love it. I’m going to be involved with it. I’m going to keep finding new ways to scale that impact.”
Curry aims to go where Woods might have but did not, to grab and clutch the rare opportunity Tiger fumbled.
This tour is testimony to the Power of Steph and the image he has built and maintains. Wholesome. Likeable. Engaging. Altruistic. And conceivably the most widely popular individual in Bay Area history.
How did he get here? By winning multiple NBA championships, feeding the hungry, earning multiple MVP awards, posting an absurdly photogenic triumph at a celebrity golf tournament, becoming the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point shots, putting shoes on the shoeless and partnering with his wife in raising three children.
Curry is climbing an unconquered mountain with his goal, but such challenges are in his blood. Doubt him at your own risk.