Dayton native Craig Kirby is nothing if not well-connected.
During his 40 years as a Democratic Political Strategist, he’s been employed by the White House, served as a devoted aide to Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson and once met with South Africa’s first democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela. “Craig, come,” Kirby remembers Mandela gently telling him.
Kirby leveraged his connections and experience to win political races. He only ever lost one: the 2000 Presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
But in 2007, Kirby turned his considerable skills and rolodex to golf. That year, current U.S. Senator Mark Warner weighed a run for President. He asked Kirby to run his campaign. But then Warner pulled out. “Damn,” Kirby remembers saying. Out of a job, Warner leveraged his own contacts to help Kirby secure a meeting with PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem to discuss an idea.
A meeting that Kirby figured would last for 40 minutes went on for more than five hours. Kirby outlined a proposal to introduce the predominantly white sport of golf to young minorities who wouldn’t traditionally find access to the game or consider it as a career option.
His closing pitch: “I’m not asking you for a check. I’m asking you for an opportunity.”
That initial meeting with Finchem and his executive committee spawned the eventual creation of “Golf. My Future. My Game.”
To date, the program has been implemented in several cities, including Baltimore, Detroit and Washington, D.C.
This summer, “Golf. My Future. My Game” will introduce an inaugural program locally in the Dayton area, where Kirby grew up.
The initial class begins at 8 am on Saturday, June 5th. The Golf Club at Yankee Trace will host a STEMa program, a variation of the traditional science, technology, engineering and math curriculum, with the added lower case ‘a’ emphasizing golf course agriculture and architecture. The June 5th class will center around environmental and scientific connections to golf, with USGA Executive Carter Rich leading a discussion about golf ball and golf club technology.
“We want to get kids excited about aerodynamics and turf science,” Kirby said. “Golf is more than a golf ball.”
Following Rich’s presentation, area PGA Professionals will provide instruction.
As he did during his political career, Kirby has leaned on his vast connections to put together a “group of people who come from varied backgrounds and experiences.”
Subsequence classes include appearances from Alex Yeazal of Trackman Golf, Yankee Trace Superintendent Terry Taylor and Renee Powell, the second African American to compete on the LPGA Tour.
The program will meet each Saturday through June 26th. A special session on June 7th includes a field trip to U.S. Open qualifying at Springfield Country Club. On June 16th, participants will visit Powell’s Clearview Golf Club in East Canton.
Children ages 8-18 can attend. All participants will receive complimentary golf apparel.
For Kirby, the lofty goal of the program is simple: “We want to provide underrepresented children with a passport to the world of business via the world of golf.”
Children can enroll, learn more about the program and the class schedule by contacting Kirby directly at Craig.Kirby@GolfMyFutureMyGame.org.