People come from far and wide to play on golf courses across the Eastern Shore of Maryland. At the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the sport has provided much pride and strength, and is enjoying a renaissance.
Maryland State College experimented briefly with intercollegiate golf during the (President) John T. Williams era by fielding a team from 1955 to 1961. That final year, football standout Bob Taylor and future youth sports pioneer Fred Engh led the Hawks to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association conference title and a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics district championship.
The Maryland State College golf team - 1961.
UMES ventured back into the golf game in 2004 when it created a Golf Academy, led by alumnus and former football star Marshall Cropper. Former President Thelma B. Thompson believed students at historically black institutions should have an understanding that the game often can be an important job and business-networking tool.
Today, the academy provides just such training in golf basics to students, faculty and staff as well as those with no formal ties to the university interested in starting to learn the game.
UMES is one of 20 universities and the only historically black institution with an accredited PGA Golf Management program. That pioneering decision to offer a course of study leading to a bachelor's degree earned UMES induction into the African American Golfers Hall of Fame in 2010.
Golf continues to be an important part of the institution. Former Hawk football great Art Shell has hosted a golf outing each summer to benefit UMES student-athletes and the Golf Academy. Former Hawk student-athletes and celebrities compete in this event alongside local golfers.
Once the Golf Academy established itself, UMES brought back men’s golf as a varsity sport in 2009. Jamila Johnson, a former three-year captain at Jackson (Miss.) State University, was chosen as the new team’s first head coach.
In its inaugural season in 2010-11, the Hawks all-freshmen team competed well against more experienced teams, improving 138 strokes from its first to final three-day tournament. The future looks bright for UMES as golf continues to grow at the school.
-- STAN BRADLEY