When he helped found the United Black Golfers Association earlier this year, Vernel Bennett of Laurelton had the straightforward goal of broadening the availability and appeal of the sport in Southeast Queens.
So he was more than a little pleased on March 8 when the group made its formal introduction, with dozens of interested visitors, and inquiries from as far away as Massachusetts.
“It was more successful than I have imagined,” he said. “Word got out in the media. Now I know what it means when kids say something has gone viral.”
Bennett, president of the association, said despite the name, the intent from the start was to provide an opportunity for all people of all ages who either enjoy the game or are interested in taking it up. For naysayers who decry that golf is not a sport, he laughs.
“If you play a regulation 18 holes and don’t take a cart, you’re going to walk about six miles and do a lot of bending to pick up your ball,” he said.
Bennett added that someone need not be aiming to be the next Tiger Woods for the game to help one’s career, such as business owners and sales representatives.
“I started when I was 55,” he said. “I was a tax accountant for the government. I would go all over and meet all kinds of people on the job. But once people found out I played golf, they didn’t want to talk about anything else. We’d have to go to another room so people could work.”
And once on the course, he said, you are playing, talking to and hanging out with any group you are in for hours.
Queens has four public golf courses, Clearview park on Willets Point Boulevard; Douglaston Golf Course on Marathon Parkway; Forest Park Golf Course; and Kissena Golf Course on Booth Memorial Avenue.
“Some people say it’s a rich man’s game,” he said. “And it can be. But I can also golf on a public course for as much as $75, or as little as $25, depending on the time I want to play. And golf travels. You don’t have to play only in Queens. I’ve played in North Carolina, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.”
People seeking further information on the United Black Golfers Association can visit the group’s website at unitedblackgolfers.org. The group also is on Facebook and Twitter.