By Keith D. King
Society often tries to dictate societal norms within the inner city community. At a young age when it comes to sports, it’s almost taught to us immediately that our options are limited. Kijontray McClay is an example of going against the status quo.
McClay is a 24-year old member of the Professional Golfing Association of American, and is currently functioning as a golf instructor at Cattail Creek Country Club in Glenwood, Maryland. Born and raised in San Diego, McClay begin learning to play golf from his grandfather, Gordon Brown around the age of 4.
“I introduced every single one of my kids to golf, so there were always golf clubs laying around the house, KJ picked up the clubs, and took a liking to golf right away,” Brown said. “Even if he didn’t like it early on, I was still going to make sure he was introduced to it. I wanted to stop the myth that golf was not a black sport, and was only for old rich white men only.”
McClay’s grandfather and his family have been run the San Diego Junior Golf Academy & Foundation for over 50 years now. Every weekend he would go and learn the fundamentals of golf, practice, and visit different golf courses to play. Growing up in the program is what developed his passion for the game. His journey towards becoming an instructor was an eye opening experience as to how young black men were treated in the sport.
“Early on, I learned that as an African American male, I had to play to a different set of standards,” said McClay. “My name is Kijontray, as soon as I started putting KJ on my applications, I instantly noticed a difference in the response I began to receive on my resume. I’ve been fortunate enough to have met some kind hearted people, but I can say that a lot of the stereotypes of black people in golf are blanketed, but they do exist.”
Growing up in the inner city, when you met a kid that is involved in sports, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the common sports, basketball, football, soccer, and baseball. When asked if he had any friends in high school that shared his interest, McClay laughed.
“Growing up my friends stuck to the traditional sports, outside of golf I played Tennis and even that was out of the Ordinary. I was one of maybe 3 kids at Lincoln High that played golf.”
McClay is the first African American to come out of San Diego and go through the PGA Management Program and receive his credentials. He can definitely be looked at as a person who is doing their part in helping change the culture of how young black men are boxed in when it comes to athletics. He is making his mark, and growing his brand.