July 18, 2021
USGA / Kathryn Riley
Bailey Davis, an 18-year-old amateur public golfer from small town Maryland, enjoyed the USGA Girls’ Junior Championship, which ended Saturday at Tony Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland. seven miles from the White House.
She didn’t win the thing. In fact, she was beaten by another 18-year-old, Rose Zhang, the reigning US amateur champion destined for Stanford, in the storm-interrupted 36-hole final (6 and 4). The course was spectacular, but the heat was huge. Going outside was like stepping into a Turkish steam bath. And yet, Bailey Davis had the time of her young life.
“If your week starts with getting a letter from Barack Obama, that’s a good start,” Bailey said in a phone interview on Saturday night. That is, Columbia CC member Barack Obama. All girls received a letter from the former president addressed to each player individually.
USGA / Kathryn Riley
The letter was particularly telling to Bailey, who has competed in many tournaments where she was the only black candidate in the field and who fought to become the first African American woman to win a USGA title. After all, Obama was not only the first black president, he’s a golfer too. Obama and his wife Michelle are both heroes to Bailey. Bailey said her example inspired millions. In her own way, she hopes to do the same.
“It’s a challenge, and it’s nice to come out on top and represent my race, showing black girls everywhere that this is something we can do,” said Bailey.
Can she ever. The youngest graduate of North Point High School in Waldorf, Maryland, took up golf at the urging of her maternal grandfather, who lives practically on the municipal golf course in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was there that she hit her first blows when she was six. old. Bailey’s father, who retired from the Navy after a 30-year career, is an active volleyball coach. Bailey played softball, volleyball, and golf until golf caught on over time.
She has a beautiful, powerful and athletic swing. She enters and strikes. That means it is fast. Next month, Bailey will be bringing her talent to Tennessee. She becomes a Lady Vol. It’s hot there too. In the Chevy Chase sweat box, Bailey looked like she was on Center Court at Wimbledon, playing with a yellow ball and wearing all white with a shirt with a big T.
It’s nice to take the stage and show black girls everywhere that this is something we can do.
Rose Zhang is already a well-known talent in the game. When you watch her and talk to her, it’s hard to believe that she is 18 years old. Her parents and older brother were both born in rural mainland China, and the family moved to Southern California before Rose was born. “My father was a lawyer in China, but here he is completely dedicated to my golf sport,” said Rose in a telephone interview on Saturday evening.
In public spaces across Southern California you will find immigrant parents from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and many other countries who made their children’s golf the engine of their lives. But few of these female golfers are as successful as Rose, who was a medalist in the 36-hole qualification in the girls’ juniors with rounds of 69 and 64. This from the young golfer – did we mention that she is an A student? – who made the cut at the US Open 2019. She’ll be trying to defend her US amateur title next month at the Westchester Country Club, north of New York City.
USGA / Kathryn Riley
Saturday was an interesting day to watch golf when you played last channel ping pong between the British Open on NBC and the Girls’ Junior on Golf Channel. For some, it was hard not to think of Ann Gregory, the first black woman to play in USGA events, which she did in 1956. Mrs. Gregory’s life went from rural Mississippi to a public black course in Gary, Indiana, to a place in the 1956 US Amateur. Numerous American newspapers noted her achievement. She was the Jackie Robinson of amateur women’s golf in America in the 1950s. This game was as white as the blown snow.
Slow forward to 2021. For most of the past 60 years or so, it would have been downright overwhelming to think of even a black golfer in public places and the daughter of Chinese immigrants clashing in the US Girls’ Junior Final I Play in One Chintz sofa club like Columbia CC But no more. Progress, painfully slow.
In 2005, the Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Robinson moved to Washington, DC to become the manager of the Washington Nationals. Robinson loved golf, but he was sure he would never play at the Congressional Country Club, the famous US Open venue on the outskirts of Washington. At this point, Congressional was open to black members, but Robinson didn’t believe it. When he grew up playing baseball in the 1950s, there were still many spring training hotels that wouldn’t accommodate black ball players.
The ultimate secret golf legend, Ann Gregory, lived a life of firsts
In 1959, when the US Women’s Amateur was taking place at the Congressional, Ann Gregory, as a black player, was not allowed to attend the Candidates’ dinner. When she was playing at the Meridian Hills Country Club amateur club in Indianapolis in 1956, another player mistook her for a housekeeper and asked Mrs. Gregory where she could find hangers for her clothes. Today Bailey Davis’ swing coach, John Scott Rattan, works for Congressional. Bailey is there often and always feels welcome.
Gregory had one child, a daughter, JoAnne Gregory Overstreet, a retired teacher who lives in Las Vegas. Ms. Overstreet enjoyed the USGA Girls’ Junior final, Ms. Zhang versus Ms. Davis.
“When that other candidate asked about these hangers, my mother just helped her get them, it was just easier for her and her attitude was always, ‘Racism is the other person’s problem,'” Mrs. Overstreet said in a telephone interview on Saturday. “She would have been very happy to see the last match with these two golfers.”
She was asked how her mother would deal with the hanger incident today.
“Oh,” said Mrs. Overstreet. “She said, ‘Well, I happen to be a candidate for the tournament too, but I’ll be happy to help you find some hooks and I hope we get the chance to play against each other in the tournament and the best golfer wins.'”
On Saturday, the best golfer won at Columbia Country Club. Rose Zhang, a mega talent, won. Golf won too. Bailey Davis looked forward to going home with mom and dad, getting some sleep, and seeing where their golf lives lead next.
Michael Bamberger can be reached at Michael.Bamberger@Golf.com.
Michael Bamberger writes for GOLF magazine and Before that, he spent almost 23 years as Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated. After college he worked as a newspaper reporter, initially for the (Martha’s) Vineyard Gazette, later for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He wrote a variety of Books on golf and other subjects, the latest of which is The Second Life of Tiger Woods. His magazine work has been featured in several issues of The Best American Sports Writing. He holds a US patent The E-Club, a utility golf club. In 2016 he received the Donald Ross Award from the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the organization’s highest honor..