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Blog: April 2012

Making A Difference

Since 2009 I have been a proud member of the Advocates USA. The purpose of the organization, which was founded in 2004, is “to make a difference in the life of those from underserved communities by serving as advocates for education, health and economic development.” Members have been active mentors for youth programs across the country, and raised more than $350,000 towards college scholarships, and a pro golf tour for aspiring golfers.

The Advocates Invitational Pro Tour is now in its third year. The first 2012 event was recently contested at the historic Rogers Park Golf Course, in Tampa, FL. Fifty three professionals competed for $20,000 in prize monies. Tim O’Neal won the event in a three-way playoff with James Dent, Jr. and Marcus Manley. Each completed regulation play with identical scores of seven under par 135. Mr. O’Neal birdied two straight holes to win the playoff and $6,000 first prize. “It’s really good of the Advocates to showcase minority talent,” said Tim, “I hope more people come aboard to help the Tour continue to grow.”

In case you hadn’t noticed, Tim O’Neal (left) has won three events in the past two months. The other two were on the Morocco Tour, where he won two in a row prior to coming to Tampa. He also had two very high finishes on the European Tour immediately following the event at Rogers Park. When asked why the sudden successes, Tim stated that he was refocused, and continuing to work hard on the swing changes he made a little over two years ago. He also mentioned that this year was the first year he arrived at the Advocates event in Tampa sharp, and with a few competitive rounds already under his belt. This had been his first event of the season in previous years, and he declared that “practicing at home is not the same as playing events.”

(Above: Afew of the young hopefuls at the Advocates Rogers Park event, 2012)

Being able to compete on a regular basis has been a common constraint for aspiring professionals on the Advocates Invitational Pro Tour. Most struggle for funds to compete week in and week out. For instance, James Dent, Jr. balances his playing schedule with a full-time job at a local Tampa golf course. Competing at the highest level takes total focus and dedication, though, and our players are disproportionately challenged to realize their dreams of playing the PGA Tour.

It’s not only the abilities to participate regularly, they are often competing against players with little economic worry, swing coaches, access to sports psychologists, nutrition experts, and advanced technology. I say it’s time we come together and open a player development academy. Ernie Els opened one in South Africa. The Australian Sports Institute has one, too, and Aaron Baddeley is a successful graduate. There are other examples. We need one here for our Black American golfers. It’s a complex topic which I will leave alone for now, but continue in a future blog.

Nevertheless, the Advocates Invitational Pro Tour is indeed making a difference, as evidenced by the strong field of competitors in Tampa. “Whatever they are doing they need to keep doing,” said James Dent, Jr. “It’s a great thing for African American golfers; especially the younger ones.” Said Marcus Manley, a product of Langston Golf Course, in Washington, DC: “It’s cool to see all the minority golfers together. Not only those trying to make it now, but guys who’ve been doing it for years…all trying to push one another to get to the next level.”

For more information on the Advocates USA, go to The next Advocates Invitational Pro Tour event will be May 19-20, 2012 in Houston, TX. Contact Adrian Stills for more information at I also welcome your comments and/or feedback at

Please share your thoughts by contacting me at, and stay tuned for future blogs.

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Dr. Michael Cooper is the Director of Southeast Region Affairs for The First Tee. He also teaches Social Change and Leadership at Springfield College – Tampa, FL campus.  

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