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Black Arts and Culture

Rebirth of Golf At EWU, Florida’s Oldest HBCU

By Helen Ross
PGA Tour
Special to NNPA Newswire

The uniforms were the start. Black skorts and orange, purple, red and white polos with a glow-in-the-dark logo. The young women on the Edward Waters University (EWU) golf team really, really liked that one-of-a-kind logo.

The six asked their coach, Kelly Allen, if they could leave practice early. They wanted to wear their new uniforms back to campus “because the students didn’t really know that we had a golf program,” freshman Leiahnni Smith explains. They took pictures of each other in their new gear. They shared TikTok videos, too.

“We really made that just a day about us because we were so excited,” Smith says “ … Like everything was just, we loved it. Like we were just taking it all in and I felt like the program was starting. Like, I think that was what we knew. Like, okay, it’s starting.”

And with that simple sartorial surprise, Smith and the other members of the Edward Waters women’s golf program, resurrected this season after a seven-year absence, finally felt like a team.

The groundwork for the rebirth of the program at Florida’s oldest HBCU actually was laid in May of 2021 when officials from THE PLAYERS Championship went to EWU’s Jacksonville campus to announce a $50,000 donation from the tournament.

The grant from the PGA TOUR’s signature event was earmarked to fund scholarships, cover operational expenses and secure a head coach, among other necessities. In addition, past PLAYERS tournament chairmen, who are members of the Red Coats, also delivered more than $10,000 in golf supplies like push carts and backpacks for the team.

Allen wasn’t hired until December of last year, but he knows how important the support of THE PLAYERS has been – and will be – to his program. The tournament also invited the team to TPC Sawgrass on Thursday where many will see the TOUR’s top pros play for the first time.

“We’re super grateful for that because without that (donation) we wouldn’t be able to basically make history and be the second women’s golf team for an HBCU in the state of Florida,” Allen says.


The women’s golf team at EWU basically wasn’t a team during the first semester last fall. A new athletic director was in the process of being hired, there was no golf coach and the girls basically practiced on their own, if at all. The general manager at Brentwood, Monty Duncan knew the situation, and he told Allen there was an opening.

Smith and her teammates had already gone home for Christmas break when they found out Allen had been hired. He immediately put together a Zoom call to introduce himself and he told them he expected a lot of them, as well as himself. He said was going to push them.

“For me, that’s something that I want because I’m used to a winning team,” Smith said.

Smith has been playing golf since she was 7, also started in the game by her father. She soon went from wanting to drive the cart to try to outdrive her father. Her mother and two sisters are learning to play now, and her uncles have a “Brother-in-Law Cup, so golf really kind of just brings a lot of people together in my family,” Smith says.

Smith has embraced the game for its core values of honesty and integrity, as well as the patience golf requires. She didn’t have a First Tee chapter to guide her, but she did have the Mulligans Golf Association at her local club that put together summer programs to teach kids the fundamentals, etiquette and terminology of the game. Smith, who played on the boy’s team in middle school, will be the head instructor at this summer’s MGA camp.

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