ROSELAND – Layla Asker grew up playing golf with her mom and aunt during the summer in Jackson Park. Now, the sophomore at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep will get to play with her school’s name on her hat and bag.
Two South Side schools – Brooks, 250 E .111th St., and Hyde Park Academy, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave. – are adding boys and girls varsity golf teams. Representatives with KemperSports and Callaway Golf announced this week they will fund the programs.
The schools’ golfers, including Asker, will get new clubs and free access to Harborside International Gold Center, 11001 S. Doty Ave. East, where they can practice with the course’s golf pros. Each school will also hire a full-time golf coach.
Asker said she hopes her family hobby can now help her get a college scholarship. She wants to go into the medical field and be “a professional golfer, too.”
“I definitely don’t think kids on the South Side don’t get a lot of opportunities in golf. We’re more focused on basketball or volleyball or soccer, ”Asker said. “This gives the opportunity to play the sport that’s right for me.”
Brooks Principal Shannae Jackson said 22 students have signed up for the golf program. In all, Brooks offers 51 sports programs, basketball to water polo, Jackson said.
“We’re giving our students choices,” Jackson said. “A lot of them may not have had exposure to a certain sport. I’m glad that students can now find their place of belonging, where they feel their interests are nurtured. “
Brooks had a golf program eight or nine years ago, but it was discontinued because of the expenses, Jackson said.
About 98 percent of Brooks students are Black or Latino, and about two-thirds are low-income, according to state data.
“Your race and economic background shouldn’t hold you back from having access to sports,” Jackson said. “Being able to support that golf program with all the resources it entails was challenging.”
With the backing from KemperSports and Callaway, Hyde Park Academy will field its first golf team this fall.
David Rosengard, executive director of sports administration for Chicago Public Schools, said about half of the city’s public schools now have golf teams, with the majority on the North Side.
Rosengard said he hopes Brooks and Hyde Park will “ignite a spark” for new golf programs across the city.
“Any school that wants to start a golf program, all they have to do is let us know,” Rosengard said.
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