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Interview with Renny Roker

Aired August 12, 2002 - 10:44   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Now on paper, golf is a sport. But on the greens, it is more than that. It is a passion. But it also has -- a game with many minds (ph), it is out of reach to many, and it is out of touch as well.
Teens on the green, though, is a program designed to challenge that. The mission is getting minority youngsters into the sport, and getting them on to some of the most exclusive golf courses so they can actually go out and play college golf as well. The reward is broadening the game's appeal and providing college golf scholarships.

And joining us this morning to talk about Teens on the Green is Renny Roker, who is the CEO and founder of this wonderful program I just learned a lot about in the past couple of weeks. Good to see you, how are you this morning?

RENNY ROKER, CEO, TEENS ON THE GREEN: Oh, just fantastic, Leon. Good to be here.

HARRIS: I will bet you are pretty happy because of the tournament you had here at Stone Mountain Park this past weekend.

ROKER: It was fantastic. It was -- we had about 130 kids from 14 countries, kids of -- it was diversity at its best. Every racial background you could think of was there, and we were very happy about it.

HARRIS: Now, what I -- the way I get the whole program is that Tiger Woods, in his ascendance, he really put the desire in a lot of kids to play golf. However, that didn't put any clubs in kid's hands. It didn't get them on courses. But that is exactly what you did, and you did this from scratch.

ROKER: Well, what we did was we started with a program -- after we found out that so many minority kids, in particular, drop out of golf when they play well. We found out that the reason was the access. They did not have access to courses where they could play and earn scholarships to college. So they would drop out from playing golf, and go to something else. So what we did was we started a program that said we are going to take the cream of the crop. We are going to get them on the upscale resorts and country clubs, get them lessons, get them play, get them into the major events who rank them, who then give them an opportunity to earn a scholarship to college. Whether they became Tiger Woods or not was immaterial. I would rather have the next Leon Harris, the Ken Shenault (ph) the next -- the next executive or doctor or lawyer like that.

HARRIS: Well, as I understand it, you may have the next Tiger Woods in the program, literally.

ROKER: There was a youngster that shot a 68 the first day, turned around, and with a broken putter shot a 71, with a broken putter, Leon.

HARRIS: You have got to be kidding me.

ROKER: No, I am dead serious. I mean, it's not fair...


ROKER: ... that a youngster can play that well.

HARRIS: That is incredible. Well, one youngster, that has actually brought some attention to the program is Tiger Woods' cousin, or his niece...

ROKER: Cheyenne Woods, his niece.

HARRIS: Cheyenne Woods.

ROKER: Yes. She has played in just about all of our major events. She is out of Arizona -- Phoenix, Arizona, Desert Manshee (ph) Club, who is the Teens on the Green representative in Arizona, because what we do is we work with local programs throughout the country who are already in existence, rather than trying to create something new, and do it that way, we work with local minority programs throughout the United States, and around the world now, to make sure that we get this access and these lessons for these youngsters.

HARRIS: Now, when you and I first talked, it was just after -- I think there was a piece that I had seen on another network about how historically black colleges have almost all white golf teams, because they can't find black kids to play golf.

ROKER: Until recently, 99 percent of the players on historical black colleges were white. Since we have been in existence -- for example, Jackson State and Eddie Payton with a wonderful team. Now, nine of his 12 players come from the Teens on the Green program.

HARRIS: incredible.

ROKER: So we're excited about that.

HARRIS: Now -- and the thing is, from what I understand, the kids -- this is not a free ride for them. What they have got to do in order to stay in program is they have to keep their golf scores low, and their grades high.

ROKER: Exactly. They must maintain a 3.0 GPA. They must have their handicaps go down. They start at 12, maximum. But most of them, the majority of them, now are below five.

HARRIS: And you have how many kids in program now?

ROKER: There is about 380 kids now involved in the program and growing.

HARRIS: And how many of them have scholarships now?

ROKER: All of them will probably earn scholarships. So far, all of our youngsters that have graduated have earned scholarships to college.

HARRIS: No kidding? And I see you brought the golf clubs. Before we go to break, I want to show...

ROKER: What we did was we started our own line of golf clubs, because what we are doing now, we are on a major national fund-raising drive to raise money to provide kids all over the United States, from the time they are 3 to 5 years old, to get a set of clubs for free. We are going to put the clubs in their hand, give them the incentive to want to start playing. Give them access to our local programs that are helping them so they can teach them, and at the same time working with people like the 100 Black Men, and NARAD (ph), help with the educational aspect of it, so that as they are growing in golf, they are growing in education. Regardless of what they do, they will be able to do well in the future.

HARRIS: Listen, you have been doing well with this program. It is incredible to see what you have been able to do from scratch. Renny Roker, honor to meet you.

ROKER: Thank you, thank you.

HARRIS: Congratulations on a great program, and congratulations on the kids who are actually taking part as well.

ROKER: Thank you very much.

HARRIS: And we brought you a gift. The official shirt for you and Daryn, we will definitely have one for you too.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much. And as I mentioned, if you could help Leon with his golf game, then you will really be doing real good work.

HARRIS: Thank you, Daryn. Thank you, Daryn. Thank you, Daryn.

ROKER: That would be magic.

KAGAN: That would be magic. Renny, thank you for stopping by.

HARRIS: We are going to break, and let Daryn take the knife out of my back. Thank you.

ROKER: Thank you very much, thanks for getting to me. Daryn.

KAGAN: Good to have you with us.




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