The Original Tee Golf Classic: Preserving and Building a Legacy, Donating $150,000

By Addie Parker

For centuries, golf has had the reputation of excluding Black people from its rich history. From designing and developing courses with Black labor and then prohibiting us from their grounds to going as far as having a “whites only” clause in the PGA Tour’s by-laws — the game was never structured to be inclusive.

Nevertheless, pioneers in our culture made strides in the game of golf forever altering its history. One man, Dr. George F. Grant, gave golf one of its most powerful tools — the golf tee.

Grant was an inventor, a dentist, as well as the first African-American professor at Harvard University. Though he loved his work as a dentist and as an educator, golf was his true passion.

In December of 1899, Dr. Grant received a U.S. patent No. 638,920, the world’s first patent for a golf tee — a wooden spike with a flexible rubber peg for the ball. After Grant’s death in 1910, no one knew of his invention and for decades his contribution went unrecognized and ignored. In 1991, 92 years after his first patent, the United States Golf Association (USGA) finally recognized Grant and his contribution and named him the original inventor of the golf tee.

Portrait of Dr. George F. Grant by Ainsley Burrows.

But the celebration of Dr. Grant’s legacy doesn’t end with the USGA’s recognition. Eight years later, Wendell J. Haskins an entrepreneur and activist, founded Orginal Tee with the vision to pay homage to African-American pioneers in the sport of golf. With Haskins’ experience as an entertainment industry executive, he cultivated a way for sports and entertainment to be at the forefront of a lifestyle brand, all signified by the company’s cornerstone event: The Original Tee Golf Classic.

The Original Tee Golf Classic

Situated in the mountains of Hamburg, New Jersey, Wild Turkey Crystal Springs Golf Resort serves as the setting of the annual Original Tee Golf Classic — celebrating its 24th-year anniversary. Golfers and lovers of the game gathered last Sunday for a day of fun, fellowship, and philanthropy with Haskins and this year’s honoree Gary Sheffield at the helm of the event. 

The Original Tee Golf Classic is a diverse group of golf enthusiasts, business executives, celebrities, and influencers who come together for a competitive golf tournament, professional instruction, nine-hole youth competition, and spectator activities.

The OTGC is a premier celebrity/amateur tournament created to celebrate the African-American golf enthusiast and pay homage to pioneers in the game of golf. Its vision is to bring together a culturally diverse mix of urban professionals to an exciting tournament reflecting their lifestyle preferences. This event draws golf enthusiasts from across the country, representing leaders in business, finance, entertainment, sports, and technology. 

Wendell Haskins (left) sitting with MLB Legend and 2023 Original Tee Golf Classic True Original Award recipient Gary Sheffield (right).

MLB Legend Gary Sheffield and his connection to OTGC

Known around the world of baseball for his fierce competitive nature and winning attitude, Gary Sheffield is an MLB legend. He had an illustrious career as a player for teams like the New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, and Detroit Tigers. He is the first and only player in MLB history to record 100 RBI in a season for five different teams and is one of the rare members of the 500 home run club.

Legends are only as great as the things they do off the field — and with Sheffield he has been a huge advocate for youth development in golf since his days on the diamond.

“In addition to being a world-class athlete, Sheffield is an avid champion of golf and advocate for youth in sports. It gives me great pleasure to honor Gary as our 2023 Original Tee Golf Classic True Original Award recipient,” says Haskins. 

Media personality Roland Martin (left) and MLB legend Gary Sheffield (right).

Inspiring the Next Generation

Between the DJ booth, the celebrity guests, and the bold outfits on full display — there are plenty of things to capture your attention. Yet above all the noise, there’s one voice in particular that you simply can’t miss at the OTGC.

Gavin “Flo” Parker is a PGA member and teaching professional based out of Richmond, Virginia. He’s coined himself the “CEO of junior golf,” and his uncanny energy and theatrics make it nearly impossible to look away from him. 

This was Parker’s second year as the head of the Nike Youth Experience, a portion of the day dedicated to junior golf and exposing the youth participants to something out of the ordinary realm of the game of golf. With the help of Nike and Discover Golf, Parker has elevated the youth experience that can only be summed up with one word — outstanding.

Parker has grown his social media presence on Instagram and TikTok and was also joined by influencers Tristan Jass and Roger Steele. Jass became known for his love of basketball trick shots while building up a community of over 4 million subscribers on YouTube. 

Roger Steele has seen incredible success in the golf influencer space in recent years. He has partnerships with brands like Nike and Callaway and was a host for CBS Sports during this year’s men’s PGA Championship. Steele has made strides within golf to build out more diversity in the game by coining the hashtag “make golf cool”.

The presence of influencers at an event like OTGC showcases just how broad the community of Original Tee is. The power of influencers and social media is vast — their target audiences are getting exposure to all the amazing things this brand is committed to doing — and when that is broadcast in an organic way people will feel the authenticity and want to be a part of it.

Allowing HBCUs to thrive once more

From youth development to the classrooms of our historically Black colleges, Haskins and Original Tee have made HBCUs a priority. Haskins is a proud graduate of Hampton University and understands the importance of elevation and inclusion by creating this tournament which benefits golf programs for children of color by bringing youth to the table to learn and master the game of golf. “We look forward to presenting our Inaugural HBCU Elite Invitational to allow aspiring HBCU athletes to compete for a purse.”

Preserving the Legacy

There’s more to this story than the pageantry. The incredible track record of celebrity guests and sponsors should clue you in on what this event means to the culture — and OTGC’s efforts have not gone unrecognized.

The former Associate Dean of Harvard’s School of Dental Medicine, Wanda Mock, joined the festivities and gifted Haskins with a specialized hat embroidered with Grant’s name and patent information for the work he has done to amplify George Grant’s legacy and the outstanding artwork of Dr. Grant by Ainsley Burrows.

Ainsley Burrows, a New York City-based artist, was inspired when Haskins told him about Dr. Grant and Renee Powell and did a series of paintings of each of them. In the spirit of patronage and supporting Black art, these paintings were sold at the private sponsors’ dinner following the tournament.

Wanda Mock, former Associate Dean of Harvard University’s School of Dental Medicine (left) presented an embroidered hat to Wendell J. Haskins (right), the founder of Original Tee for his hard work preserving the legacy of Dr. George F. Grant.

LPGA icon Renee Powell, a past True Original honoree, and her family have been longtime friends of Haskins and Original Tee. Haskins has been focused on securing the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the LPGA Hall of Famer and her family. Powell’s father Bill established and designed Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio, the first golf course to allow African-American golfers.

This year’s OTGC was sold out, and Haskins will be presenting a contribution of $150,000 to support Renee Powell’s Clearview Legacy Foundation for education, preservation, and research raised within his group of influential friends and friends of the OTGC. 

LPGA icon Renee Powell, a past True Original honoree, and her family have been long-time friends of Original Tee. Powell’s father Bill established and designed the first golf course to allow African-American golfers.

The Original Tee Golf Classic has fostered a community — a family — of people with the intent to preserve a legacy. Not their own individual legacies, but a legacy of a collective. A legacy that is greater than all of us and will remain as strong as the wood that made up Dr. Grant’s original tee.

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