Tina Skeir is an African Nova Scotian woman who’s been golfing for 15 years. She jokingly said getting into golf was her “husband’s fault.”
“I had no interest in golf but he decided to surprise me one Christmas with golf lessons,” she said. “I didn’t think it was fair for me not to do the lessons, so I did the lessons, and after that I was hooked. I’ve been golfing ever since.“
Skeir was one of the women who took part in a two-day golf clinic for women put on by the Black Lives Matter Golf (BLMG) organization at the Grandview Golf and Country Club in East Preston. She spoke to the Halifax Examiner just prior to Sunday’s clinic.
While there was a last-minute clinic for women in 2021, this year the clinic was officially added to the tournament’s initiatives. BLMG also added four new members, including Skeir and another Black woman, Lillian Ashe, to its four-member committee.
“I think that was the catalyst that they realized that they should probably have some females on the committee as well as them wanting to expand it because they realized… that it was becoming big, quick,” Skeir said. “Like three years and this is where we’re at? It’s phenomenal.”
Two different groups of 28 predominately Black women took part this past Saturday and Sunday. Each group was split into two groups of 14, taking turns at two separate training stations.
One station dealt with driving and hitting the ball, and the other station dealt with chipping and putting.
Origins of BLMG
Doug Hill has been golfing for 15 years and is one of the four founding board members of BLMG, which started in 2020 following the deaths of Ahmad Aubrey and George Floyd. Hill said he and other Black golfers at Grandview would pause for a moment of silence before teeing off and would then discuss the Black issues of the day, including anti-Black racism, the killings of Aubrey and Floyd, while they were out on the golf course.
“I wasn’t aware at the time but Grandview is owned by a racialized man, Nawaz Hirji, a Muslim man from Calgary,” Hill said. “So here you have a racialized man owning a golf course in the historical Black community of East Preston where a lot of Black members play, probably the most in Nova Scotia outside of Truro. And so we challenged Grandview to do something about it and they said, ‘Well, let’s have a Black Lives Matter golf tournament.’”
The first tournament in 2020 included 12 experienced Black golfers mentoring 12 Black new golfers for a total of 24 participants. In 2021, the tournament grew to 120 participants.
The initiative started to gain steam as sponsors started coming on and more people started asking how others, including women and youth, could get involved.
In the second year BLMG added two initiatives. One was a scholarship program for students who identify as either Black, Indigenous, or a person of colour and who were going into either their first or second year of university. To enter, students had to write a 500-word essay about what Black Lives Matter means to them. Four students were selected and each received $2,500.
And last year BLMG started clinics for Black, Indigenous, and people of colour youth age 12 to 18.
Hill said that in addition to golf lessons, the youth clinics involve age-appropriate open discussions about discrimination in society and in sports.
“One young girl who was 14-years-old got up and spoke from her heart about being called a dirty Indian while she was playing volleyball on the volleyball team and the impact that that had on her,” said Hill. “The emotion and the passion that she spoke about it with, it triggered impact in all of us, we were all very emotional from it.”
“That’s what we’re encouraging youth to (discuss) is how to respond to discrimination, whether in society or in sports, but in particular we’re using golf as a platform to bring greater awareness because racialized people, historically, have been excluded from golf.”
2022 golf season
Last year the 120 participants in the BLMG tournament were grouped into teams of four, which each included a female and a youth golfer. This year’s tournament is scheduled for August 20 at Grandview.
The women’s clinic held this past weekend was officially added as the fourth BLMG initiative.
“We had older women, we had younger women, we had women from the church, we had women from various communities that came out, and they come together to support the cause,” Hill said. “I was quite pleased with their level of participation.”
“Most of them never golfed before but if you put on social media that you’re having golf clinics in East Preston for Black, Indigenous, and people of colour women, they will come out enthusiastically, they will come out passionately.”