Eastside Golf leading the charge, brings diversity to a sport in need

Consider the demographics of the PGA Tour and collegiate golfers in the United States.

Not much diversity exists within the sport.

Apparel brand Eastside Golf aims to change that.

“What we are trying to accomplish is introducing the game of golf to different people,” said Eastside Golf co-founder Earl Cooper in an exclusive interview with Playing Through.

“This brand is for the nontraditional person, the more culture-driven person. I don’t care what you look like. That’s what we’re about at the end of the day. And we want the game of golf to be a tool to be used for all of these people.”

Eastside Golf, which sells hoodies, polos, shirts, and sneakers, aims to connect all walks of life through golf.

Whether that is a 14-year-old Black teenager playing with a 70-year-old white man or introducing young children to the game at an early age, golf is a game for everyone. It is a sport where anyone of any background, age, and economic background can learn the rules and play.

“When you’re connecting worlds, you have a deeper understanding and a deeper appreciation of one another and of all people,” Cooper added. “So that’s what we’re about when it comes to just spreading the game.”

Eastside Golf came to light a few years after Olajuwon Ajanaku and Cooper won a national championship in golf at Morehouse College.

Eastside Golf
Eastside Golf co-founders Olajuwon Ajanaku and Earl Cooper standing with members of the 2023 Morehouse College golf team.
Eastside Golf

Eastside Golf is Born

Ajanaku, who played professionally and won a couple of mini-tour events for a couple of years, found himself working in commercial finance a few years later.

“I got home one day fully suited, and I was just like, this, ain’t it,” Ajanaku explained.

“I still wanted to play professionally, but I knew it would be difficult with getting sponsors and all of that. So I made a logo to put on my bag and my polo. I put it on a wall and then showed it to Earl, saying, ‘Yo, this is my new pro logo.’ And then he said, ‘You need to put that on a t-shirt.’

Ajanaku did just that. He put his new logo on Gilden t-shirts, went to downtown Detroit, and was stopped more than 100 times in a two-hour span by people asking about his latest creation.

The Eastside Golf logo.
Eastside Golf

Eastside Golf Takes Off

Ajanaku quickly put his logo on sweatshirts, socks, and umbrellas. Just like that, he had 3,000 orders shipped.

Cooper then joined Ajanaku as the two Morehouse Maroon Tigers brought their endeavor to a PGA show in Florida.

“We were definitely a little hesitant regarding whether the golf industry would be widely accepting of the logo,” Cooper explained. “We went down there and stole the show. That’s when, for me personally, the light bulb went off.”

Popularity quickly soared.

“It was something that we instantly saw that could be something special, and we just continued to build there,” Cooper added. “We met some really good folks, built some relationships, and today we have a partnership with Mercedez Benz, we’ve done a docu-series on Hulu, and we’ve created nine Jordan sneakers.”

Their latest endeavor is called Change 1961, named after the PGA of America’s decision in 1961 to allow non-Caucasian members into the sport.

They also have had discussions with the Tiger Woods Foundation. The 15-time major champion is well aware of the work that Ajanaku and Cooper have done.

The Eastside Golf co-founders have had the opportunity to meet Tiger Woods as well.

Eastside Golf Gives Back

But perhaps what is most impressive about Eastside Golf is its commitment to collegiate athletes.

The company sent $50,000 to the Morehouse Golf team.

They also have a Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deal with Matthew Vital, a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania native who now plays on the Temple University golf team.

“It is not just about selling sweaters; it’s more about mentorship,” Ajanaku explained.

“We want to make sure he has access to the right equipment, making sure he has, you know, people that he can lean on outside of his family within golf. The whole gamut of being a young professional again, in a sense, a young person that’s coming up, young athlete and it’s like, look, obviously, we know the golf part, but it’s understanding something that is bigger than yourself.”

As time goes on, Eastside Golf hopes to invest in more student-athletes. Those are the individuals who will help change the sport from the ground up, diversify it, and make it so everyone from all walks of life will be accepted.

Even today, inherent racism still exists in the United States and in golf too.

Ajanaku and Cooper have both experienced this in golf, whether it was a junior golf tournament, a corporate outing, or even a mini-tour event, and that has helped fuel the fire that is, Eastside Golf.

But hopefully, as future generations continues to progress, racism will be whittled out while acceptance is widely expanded.

That is the ultimate goal of Eastside Golf, and they are leading the charge.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *