By Marilyn Miller Paulk
It’s been 72 years in the making, but the largest predominantly Black golf club in the United States finally has a place it can call home.
Tiretown Golf Club, established in 1950, is partnering with the City of Akron in making J.E. Good Park Golf Course its home course. While the club will return its scholarship tournament to Akron for the first time in a decade, it will also have its history and tradition displayed in the clubhouse at 530 Nome Ave.
The city’s partnership with Tiretown Golf Club and Tiretown Golf Charities included an unveiling on May 28 of a marker at the No.3 tee that reads: J.E. Good Park, Home of Tiretown Golf Club. The club’s plaques for its distinguished service award winners and past champions, and logo are displayed near the entrance of the clubhouse.
According to Tiretown Golf Club president Ralph N. Paulk, this a significant moment in the club’s history, in part, because the 180-acre golf course was the only Summit County facility that would allow Black golfers to play during its early years.
“Back in 1950, Good Park was one of two golf courses in Northeast Ohio that allowed African Americans to play golf at their facility,” Paulk said, adding that Ridge Top Golf Course in Medina is the other.
“We are very appreciative of our partnership with the city of Akron. It means a lot to us to be able to share our history. It is always good to have a place to call home.”
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, whose administration agreed to the partnership earlier this year, told a crowd of mostly Tiretown members, “Welcome home. He said Tiretown’s commitment to young people and education is important.
In addition to the mayor, NAACP president Judi Hill and deputy mayor Marco Sommerville, also spoke.
Hill, who is also a member, said that Tiretown is more than a club. “Tiretown is a family. It’s individuals who support each other. They do the work in a variety of ways.”
She said historically not only Blacks were excluded from golf, but women. But today even Tiretown is more inclusive than in the past. This year, Tiretown has more women members than in the history of the organization with about 25 members.
Paulk, in his third term as president, said the predominantly Black club has gone full circle.
“I think both our organization and the city of Akron have come a long way since 1950,” said Paulk, who was elected president in 2017. “It’s reflective of our members that many of the area courses look forward to doing business with us.
“It’s great to have a place to come home, but it’s important that our members continue to work tirelessly to fulfill the club’s mission. While we committed to fundraising efforts to support on college scholarship recipients, we also have a vested interest in enhancing the Tiretown Junior Golf Club, which now has nearly 30 members.”
Tiretown’s members contribute funds to support an effort to allow minority kids to participate in various classes at the First Tee of Greater Akron at Mud Run Golf Course, which is also a city-owned property.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said he is extremely proud to learn that Tiretown is the largest predominantly African American golf club, beating out the City of Los Angeles which draws about 4 million people with 112 members. Tiretown which has far less people has 180 members.
Horrigan echoed Paulk’s comment that Tiretown is more than golf.
“This is a relationship business and we are excited to get Tiretown’s scholarship tournament back to Good Park,” Horrigan said. “We are very proud to call Tiretown home to Good Park. Welcome home Tiretown.”
Marco Sommerville, deputy mayor of Akron, said he is proud to be part of the city that helped bring First Tee to Akron. “I’m happy to see Tiretown carrying on the legacy of helping kids learn the game of golf and life.”
Sommerville also said golf is also about socialization. He recalled as a child his father was friends with Charlie Sifford, who along with Lee Elder, was among the first Blacks to compete on the PGA Tour. He even recalls coming to Good Park with his father and seeing Jim Brown playing golf.
Mike Adolph, vice president of Northern Ohio Golf Charities, which partners with Tiretown Golf Charities, said his organization is excited to have Tiretown members volunteering for this year’s Senior Players Championship at Firestone Country Club, beginning July 6.
“What a great community that Akron has had this history,” Adolph said. “I can relate volunteering at Firestone, we’re at 79 years of professional golf in Akron. It’s great we’re partnering with Tiretown Golf Club this year so its members can come out and join us to volunteer at the tournament and raise money for charity and having the kids do the junior volunteering so they can carry standards with the pros inside the ropes.
“We are really looking forward to it. It’s a great partnership.”