CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ahead of the Presidents Cup last fall, Quail Hollow Club put HBCU golf in the spotlight, as it hosted six top programs for the inaugural Charlie Sifford Centennial Cup.
On Wednesday, with the help of the folks from Wells Fargo and the First Tee, a trio of HBCU players were featured once again at the Queen City’s crown jewel.
First Tee alumni Kai Dawson (North Carolina A&T State University), Ahmad Raoul (Winston‑Salem State University), and Nyla Sims (University of Maryland Eastern Shore) played the 2023 Wells Fargo Championship pro-am with none other than three-time Wells Fargo winner Rory McIlroy before helping host a First Tee clinic to support the Greater Charlotte chapter alongside PGA Tour players like Joseph Bramlett, Austin Eckroat and Trey Mullinax.
“For me, I want to see more color in the game. Seeing all these kids come out to watch us at the clinic, it’s a big step in my dream to diversify the game,” said Raoul, who has dreams of making it to the PGA Tour after college. “I want to see more kids play the game that look like me. Having this opportunity to show who I am to these kids, be a role model, to introduce myself to them and then have them go on a better path than what I grew up with, with more accessibility to technology, golf courses like this, that just a dream come true.”
“I have students back home in West Palm Beach, and me being away this week, my coach called me this morning, he’s like, ‘The kids miss you, they’re upset that you’re gone, but they’re all rooting for you,’” said Sims, who now teaches for the First Tee. “It kind of made me emotional because I really am making a significant impact. I’m getting to expose them to golf and doing the same thing that the First Tee did for me. It’s just been nothing short of amazing.”
For Dawson, the experience was nothing new. He’s been a role model for his 11-year-old sister, Zoe, who picked up golf at the age of 7 and now participates in her local First Tee chapter.
What was new, however, was the opportunity to tee it up with not only a PGA Tour, but McIlroy, a four-time major champion and the world No. 3.
“It was an honor to play in the big leagues, on the PGA Tour,” added Dawson.
“This is probably one of the biggest motivators I’ve had in my career,” said Raoul. “We took a picture with Rory, and I told him, ‘I hope to see you one day out here,’ and he said, ‘I hope so to,’ and that set so deeply with me and motivated me to work even harder than I do now. I had other visions in mind of backup plans, but this is Plan A and something I’m gonna strive for.”
The grow the game phrase has become an overly-used cliché in golf, but it accurately describes what occurred on the Quail Hollow range. Wells Fargo prides itself as being the “Bank of Doing,” and its commitment to bring the game to those who may not otherwise be able to experience it – more than 100 First Tee participants were on hand on Wednesday – show the title is more than just a self-proclaimed tagline.