For the first time in the history of the United States Golf Association (USGA), a black man is at the helm. Fred Perpall was voted the 67th President of the organization in February 2023. Perpall is a late bloomer in the sport, picking it up as an activity outside his architectural work. That said, he’s made a significant entry into the sport that’s predominantly white. Here’s his full story.
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Fred Perpall’s Early Years
Fred Perpall posing in a photo. Source: Instagram
Fred Perpall was born in Nassau, Bahamas. One summer, he worked at a construction site with his uncle and decided to become an architect. He attended the University of Texas at Arlington to pursue this career path.
Away from academics, Perpall played basketball and represented the Bahamas national basketball team. However, his career wasn’t as prominent so when he was done with basketball, he switched to golf.
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Picking Up Golf
Fred Perpall picked up golf in his late 30s. He didn’t grow up near a golf course, and the game was inaccessible due to cultural and economic barriers. His first golfing experience came when he joined a club in Dallas, more for social reasons than sport. After spending some time around it, he decided to learn the game. He told Andscape.
“I didn’t grow up playing golf. Just about a little bit over 10 years ago, I joined a country club [in Dallas]. I joined this club more for social reasons, but every day, I’d go up to the club to get a drink after work and I’d see all the guys coming in from the golf course having so much fun. So, I decided to hire a coach and get serious about golf.”
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Working with AT&T
While learning how to play golf, Perpall and his architectural company were contracted to build a golf club that’ll host the Byron Nelson Classic Tournament. Through this, Perpall got first-hand experience of what the sport is all about. The culture, values and norms. All these opened the door to sit and work with gold organizations.
In 2018,he joined the executive committee of his golf club in Dallas. Three years later, Perpall served on the Amateur Status Committee and then chaired the USGA Championship Committee. This opened the door for him to climb to the highest level, receiving and getting elected as the President of the USGA.
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‘I Worked to Get Here’
Perpall is keen on pointing out that his rise to the top of USGA wasn’t a fluke. He worked his way and earned his spot. It’s important for him because he doesn’t want anyone to suggest that he only got the presidency because he’s black. “I didn’t have to take any shortcuts. Even though my rise was quick, I went through all the steps.”
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President of USGA
Fred Perpall, president-elect of USGA. Source: Instagram
Fred Perpall knows that golf has historically been advanced within certain socioeconomic spaces. That said, he’s adamant that the USGA is working to open up the game to other communities that haven’t had the opportunity to interact with the sport. He explained this to Golf Channel.
“For years, we’ve been asking young kids of color to leave their communities and go into those where golf is to learn the game. There are programs that take kids from their communities to learn. However, they are uncomfortable in these new environments. What we want to do now is take the game to them. This means we should build the facilities in their communities to integrate them into the game.” Perpall said.
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Clubs Want Inclusion
According to Golf Digest, golf club membership varies. Done can cost you around $6000 to join one, a costly price for the majority of Americans. Even so, Fred Perpall insists that most clubs are interested in diversity and inclusion. According to him, the United States has created a pathway for inclusion and golf is bound to catch up with the changing dynamics of the country.
Long Term Change
The one thing Fred Perpall is keen on is having a long-lasting impact on the game. For him, it should be a moment where the investment and commitment lead to tangible results. To do that, the USGA is intentional about making programs that go a long way toward integrating different communities and a wholesome change.
“This opportunity shouldn’t be a flash in the pan. It’s not about me or black people. It’s not a black man’s golf. Otherwise, the other people will not feel like they have a commitment to make the change. It’s everyone’s job. We all have to work toward a common goal.”
Fred Perpall has taken the mantle of opening up the golfing world to everyone. African Americans are still a minority in the sport despite the successful contributions of Tiger Woods. It’ll be a gradual process and Perpall says people should have a long-sighted view.
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