Open Nav


June 4, 2021

By Ian Cutler

DES MOINES, IA - For PGA Tour Champions golfer Kirk Triplett, issues of racism, diversity, equity and inclusion are personal, though he admits they weren't always.

Triplett, 59, and his wife Cathi, who are white, have four children, two of which are adopted and people of color. Triplett says growing up in a small town in the Pacific Northwest that he had little to no exposure with diverse people or cultures. It wasn't until he and his wife adopted their two youngest children that he started to learn and gain experience dealing with and addressing these issues.

What inspired him to be more active and vocal about them was when his youngest son, who is biracial, got his driver's license a few years ago, and Triplett had to explain to him what to do if he were pulled over by police. Triplett realized that the conversation was “very different” than the ones he had had with his other sons, who are white, because of the systemic racial inequities that exist in our society. Fast forward to 2020 and Triplett became the first professional golfer to put a “Black Lives Matter,” sticker on his golf bag, and today continues to advocate for racial equity and social justice.

“[Putting the sticker on my bag] was me telling golf, 'You may not think this affects you, but it does,'” Triplett said. “I'm trying to learn. I don't have a lifetime of experience [with these issues]… How do we bridge those gaps and understand each other better? I want to be a part of that.”

Triplett shared his perspective and talked about how to grow the game of golf through inclusion in a RISE Critical Conversation as part of the Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa.

Kim Miller, RISE Vice President of Programs, moderated the virtual conversation, which also features Marsha Oliver, PGA Tour VP of Community & Inclusion and Teree Caldwell-Johnson, President & CEO of Oakridge Neighborhood and Oakridge Neighborhood Services, a benefactor of the Principal Charity Classic that provides safe and affordable housing and supportive human services programming in Des Moines.

The conversation highlights some of the key initiatives of the Principal Charity Classic and the PGA Tour to advance diversity and inclusion within the game - including work with the First Tee, which has partnered with RISE to incorporate RISE curriculum in some of its youth programming.

The conversation also addresses some of the challenges facing the sport and communities of color, and presented solutions for how to use the game of golf to foster inclusion and tackle issues of racism and inequity in communities across Iowa and throughout the country.

“We have to be intentional about our efforts and rid ourselves of the air of privilege that sometimes surrounds certain spaces, and I think there is an air of privilege that sometimes surrounds golf,” Caldwell-Johnson said. “Our ability to not only understand what that privilege is but how to deal with it and expand our boundaries so we get rid of that is really what we need to be about moving forward.”

Caldwell-Johnson and Oliver also spoke about the importance of investing in communities of color and using the platform of the PGA Tour to provide access to new opportunities and address important issues such as youth development, health & wellness, economic empowerment and racial equity.

“We operate to be good stewards in the communities where we play,” Oliver said. “We want to build greater partnerships and deeper engagement with those communities.”

Triplett feels the game of golf and the PGA Tour is well positioned to have a major impact in advancing social justice.

“Golf has so much potential in the social justice space, because it can provide so much and do so much,” Triplett said. “You can open people's eyes, provide money for programs … and make some progress in your community.

“Being a golfer, I love to play well, I like to win tournaments … but knowing that it's part of a bigger mission, that's a great thing to be part of and that's the PGA's story.”

RISE News & Stories



Sign up to get the latest news and information from RISE.