AKRON, Ohio — The largest predominantly Black golf club in the United States now has its official home.
Tiretown Golf Club and Tiretown Golf Charities can now call the 180-acre J.E. Good Park Golf Course its home course.
That marks a major milestone for the 72-year-old golf club that draws its 180 or so members from the Akron area and whose history includes playing at city-owned Good Park. It was one of only two golf courses in Northeast Ohio at the time of the club’s founding in 1950 where Black golfers could play. The other course at the time was Ridge Top Golf Course in Medina.
The membership celebrated Saturday morning at the course in beautiful, sunny and cool weather with speeches and the unveiling of a new plaque that will be installed near the No. 3 tee, and with photos and other memorabilia displayed in the clubhouse. Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, Akron NAACP President Judi Hill and others attended and spoke.
And while it was a time to reflect on the group’s rich history, members also said being able to call Good Park Golf Course their official home bodes well for their future and ongoing missions to develop young golfers and scholars.
Tiretown Golf Club President Ralph Paulk told onlookers he was on a recent trip to California. While there, Paulk said he played golf with a Los Angeles-area club that had a predominantly Black membership of 112, which a newspaper said made it the largest Black golf club in the U.S.
But Paulk noted the Akron club has about 180 members.
“Well, if my numbers are right, 180 is a little higher than 112,” Paulk said. “Therefore, we are the largest predominantly African American club in the country.”
More than just golf
And while the Tiretown members are very competitive when it comes to playing golf, they take pride in being more than that, Paulk said.
“It’s one thing to be the largest or the biggest or whatever, but it’s another thing to do the work,” Paulk said. “I will say one thing about our members, they do the work. They know how important it is for scholarships, they know how important it is for young people. It’s one of the reasons why our youth program is more than 30 strong.”
Tiretown has other partnerships as well, including First Tee, he said. First Tee works to integrate the teaching of golf as well as life skills to children. Tiretown members also raise money for a scholarship program, and the club has extended partnerships with the city, organizations, churches and others.
Tiretown member Tony Bishop noted after the ceremony that one of the important things about First Tee is developing the next generation of golfers and helping youths develop life skills.
“We don’t have kids in First Tee, we don’t have golfers on TV,” he said.
“This is more than the Tiretown club. It’s a family,” said the NAACP’s Hill, who is a Tiretown member. “It’s individuals who support each other.”
Hill estimated that 90% of the people attending Saturday’s event are NAACP members. She reminded onlookers that historically Blacks were not allowed to play golf and that in many cases women were not allowed, either. She called Saturday “an awesome day.”
Hill said the NAACP and Tiretown are two organizations that “have weathered the storms, the political, economic and social storms that this community and the world have provided. We persevered, we continued to grow. … We can and we do make a difference. And we have to hold onto that.”
Horrigan, who plays golf, noted that the city and Tiretown reached an agreement for the golf club to call Good Park its home.
Horrigan called Tiretown and Good Park and the city a relationship. He said he was extremely proud that Tiretown’s home is now Good Park.
“Tiretown is so much more than golf,” Horrigan said. “It’s about the socialization. It’s about what it teaches you. … Welcome home. Welcome.”
Afterward, Paulk said it took 72 years for Tiretown to have a home. It’s important to have a place to show and share the organization’s history at the clubhouse, he said.
“We have 72 years of rich tradition and history,” he said. “This is the home of Tiretown.”
Jim Mackinnon is a reporter for the Akron Beacon-Journal, part of the USA Today Network. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or http://www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ.