MIAMI — Before Tiger Woods became a household name, many African Americans viewed golf as a leisure pastime for upper-class, white people.

But in the past 10 years, the game has crossed socioeconomic and ethnic lines, and more people in minority communities now embrace it as a physical sport. Among them is Marquail Baldwin, a third-grader at Downtown Miami Charter School who said he wants to play professionally.

“There are many people that are playing golf now that make a lot of money.  I know a [little] about golf because, I’ve gone golfing before.  It’s just like baseball,” said Baldwin.

Baldwin, 9, and several other children at the Overtown Youth Center took part in a Johnson & Wales University golf program on Wednesday, Oct. 28. The program provided the children with a firsthand introduction of the golf game and its related careers.

The university’s golf mentorship initiative is part of an ongoing community effort that Johnson & Wales College of Business has established with the Overtown Youth Center.  The program’s goal is to provide college students with mentorship opportunities that inspire disadvantaged children to pursue higher education, and that expose the youth to different career options.

“Through this partnership with Johnson & Wales University, we are hoping to provide Overtown Youth Center students with opportunities for personal growth as well as exposure to career development opportunities,” Carla Penn, executive director of the Overtown Youth Center, said in a prepared statement. “Children who are exposed to extra-curricular activities from an early age are more likely to succeed in school and go on to have fulfilling lives as adults.”

Much to their delight, 15 students from the university’s North Miami Campus, who are currently enrolled in the school’s golf management curriculum, braved the scorching heat at the field behind the Youth Center to demonstrate some golf techniques.

“These guys are great because they are spending their time to work with us and help us out.  Today, I learned how to pose and how to hit the ball.  It’s my dream to be a golf player,” Baldwin said.

The Overtown Youth Center provides children living in Overtown with academic, educational, cultural and recreational services in a safe environment. The center works with children starting from the second grade. All the way up until children are age 25, the center offers in-school, after-school, weekend, summer, post-high and parent involvement programs that focus on inspiring, empowering, and enriching the lives of the children and their families.

“Some of the statistics in the black community state that 70 percent of our students, particularly black males, are dropping out of school. We’ve had a graduating class of about 80 students and all of them elected some post-high—vocational and college — educational institution. So, we have a lot of success stories,” said Tina Brown, finance director of the center.

To ensure their continued success, mentorship with the Overtown Youth Center children will continue long after the golf demonstration, Loreen Chant, president of the university’s North Miami Campus, told the South Florida Times.

This past year, Johnson & Wales and the center began their collaboration with two of the college’s unique academic programs which combine classroom learning and hands-on work experience. Children at the center received a culinary experience that taught them fundamental cooking techniques as well as the importance of healthy eating.  They also took part in a simulated crime scene investigation at the university’s Crime Scene Institute Laboratory at the North Miami Campus.

“Our goal is to inspire them, engage them, and get them motivated to think about things that they otherwise might not have,” Chant continued. “And, it really is  great to give our university students the opportunity for volunteerism and community leadership.”