Taisir Parham was already a fairly popular student at Boys’ Latin High School, but he knew a good sales pitch would still be the key to convincing classmates to start a new golf team at the West Philadelphia school.
“Do you want to be the next Tiger Woods?” wasn’t the successful opener he hoped it would be. His closer, however, hooked more than a few.
“Then I showed them how much Tiger Woods gets paid and then they said, ‘Yes!’” said a chuckling Parham.
Jokes aside, Parham understands that golf might not net him riches. He does, however, think it could open doors. The game also seems to be part of his larger plan to represent young Black faces in places he hasn’t seen them often.
“I think to myself I could be starting something for my family,” he said, “so that when I get older I can show my kids and great grandkids that I did something that was out of the social norm of being Black where I live.”
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When Boys’ Latin teacher Zach Paris let students know he wanted to start a golf team, Parham, 18, was among the first to show interest. Before long, he and fellow senior Anthony Parker had recruited nearly 30 potential players.
Limited seats on the team’s van and modest practice accommodations, Paris said, meant the numbers had to be trimmed.
Paris, who played golf for his father, Joe, the longtime coach at West Chester Rustin, now leads his own team of nine golfers.
The Paris family has a unique reputation for giving, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the youngest member wanted to share with his students what the game has taught him.
“It’s a game of perseverance,” Paris said. “I think it’s a similar to story to what our guys experience because they persevere through a lot, through all the things that happen in our school community, through a lot of stuff in their personal lives.”
The Paris family is also no stranger to struggles.
Last year, Joe Paris donated a kidney to his brother, Harry, who has dealt with kidney problems since he was a teenager. The family patriarch, Joe Sr., had also previously donated a kidney to Harry in the 1990s before it eventually faltered around 2019.
It was about a year later in 2020 when Zach Paris, who reports that his uncle Harry is doing well now, brainstormed a Boys’ Latin golf team.
In addition to his high school career, Paris, 27, also attended Temple University to play golf, but says he ultimately chose to devote himself fully to studying engineering instead.
Yet the game still opened doors. Paris said he once landed an engineering opportunity through golf.
“I knew all the opportunities that are out there for my students,” he said, “and I knew our student body is enthusiastic about trying new things.”
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Parham had almost zero experience with golf before the team’s first practice in September. “Unless you count the [Nintendo] Wii,” he joked.
Only one of Parham’s teammates had ever been introduced to the game, so Paris spent the first few sessions on the basics.
“Some didn’t know how to carry a golf bag,” he said. “They carried it like a football.”
Golf equipment became another barrier. Early on, his players practiced with a random assortment of old clubs from the school’s previous attempt to start a golf team years before Paris arrived.
Paris eventually sought and received donations from members he knew at Penn Oaks Golf Club in West Chester, where he grew up playing. Now his team is stocked with golf clubs, shoes, shirts, pants, balls, and even a set of children’s clubs for a shorter freshman on the team.
Paris said his plan is to focus on practice and learning the rules of the game this year. Then he hopes his team will eventually compete against the six other the Public League golf teams next season. Constitution High won this season’s championship by five strokes against Central High.
“The idea is that we would start this year and have some young guys so we could build [the program] for four years,” Paris said. “We do also have three seniors because I know you need leaders.”
Parham, also the senior class president, wasn’t just looking for something new. He also sought something that might stand out on college applications. He decided to become a lawyer after the faces he didn’t see at a courthouse field trip that caught his eye.
“I noticed there were a lack of judges who looked like me,” he said. “So I thought why not do something that could help people, but that could also help expand other’s horizons by doing better for your own people?”
Though his favorite class right now is African American history, Parham said he doesn’t know much about the history of golf except for Tiger Woods.
When told the late Charlie Sifford, the first Black player to earn playing privileges on the professional tour and whom Woods considered a “grandfather,” lived in Philadelphia for a time and honed his skills at Cobbs Creek Golf Course, Parham seemed surprised, then inspired.
“It feels great to know that,” he said. “Now it hits more to home. It feels even better to know somebody who looked like me was playing golf here even before Tiger Woods.”