By Nicholas Ibarra
Shamar Knox recently returned from a national golf opportunity in Philadelphia called the Game Changers Academy. The experience allowed him to think back on when he was younger and how he never would have thought he would be selected from among hundreds of thousands of kids to attend such an event.
Shamar, 16, was born in Staten Island, New York. When he was about 31/2, his mom, Tamara Knox, decided that it was best to move to Sacramento to escape a domestic violence situation and try and rebuild their life.
Shamar doesn’t remember much from those times, but with a little creativity, his mom discovered a way to capture some memories, as well as instill life lessons within Shamar that he could reflect on. About the time Shamar had reached kindergarten, his mom began to record and upload videos of him to YouTube. She recorded a video of Shamar reciting the poem “A Great Somebody” by Adrienne Sealy Hardesty and titled the video, “Shamar is Somebody,” to show him that he could play a positive role in society, be a good person, and that the situation he came from did not define him. Shamar is doing just that.
Shamar started golfing when he was 6 years old. He was introduced to the game by his mom’s old boss, Victoria Hendersen. She thought it would be a good idea to bring Shamar out to the golf course and hit a couple balls; he was hooked instantly.
Golf is expensive. But, with help from scholarships, Shamar was able to attend golf classes.
“At first I wasn’t really taking it seriously. I didn’t get the point of swinging a club and then trying to find a white ball somewhere on a course,” he said.
He started going to more classes and enjoying himself, which his coaches noticed. One day, he arrived at class and was gifted his first set of clubs by his coach, Sydney, whom he still talks to today.
“That moment was a real eye opener to all the opportunities that could be opened up in this sport,” he said, “especially being African American. You don’t see many African Amercans in this sport, at all.”
Shamar has been a member of First Tee, a youth development organization that helps kids build character through golf, for eight years. The character lessons learned empower participants through a lifetime of new challenges. The program creates active learning opportunities that build inner strength, resilience, and self-confidence. Attending First Tee has taught Shamar the importance of confidence, honesty, and patience, and how to apply those characteristics on and off the course.
First Tee has presented Shamar with many opportunities, including volunteering for the California Eagles, a Special Olympics program, where he works with kids with special needs and teaches them the game. But the greatest opportunity he has been given was the chance to attend the Game Changers Academy in Philadelphia.
The program selected 48 participants from a national pool of First Tee members. Over four days it focused on “D.E.I.” – diversity, equity, and inclusion. Participants learned what in their golf games needs improvement and held conversations about diversity and racism.
“It was an all-around amazing experience,” Shamar said. “It was interesting to hear everyone’s – kids from all races – points of view on racism and diversity and know that they have an understanding of what it is. We had very deep conversations that kids my age would normally never have at school.”
The biggest challenge Shamar faces is diversity. At the many tournaments that he attends, he is often the sole African American, but he does not let it get to him.
“I’m there to live my best life and have fun on the course. That’s what golf is to me,” he said.
Shamar, a junior at McClatchy High School, has many aspirations. But his most immediate is to attend Stanford on an academic scholarship and play golf, while majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in marketing.
After college, he hopes to receive his PGA tour card, which would make him a professional golfer. If that does not pan out, he would love to apply his future mechanical engineering degree to a career in car manufacturing and design.
He said, “There are a lot of blessings in my life that I never would have imagined to happen and I think it attributes to the video that my mom made about me being a “great somebody”, my family, and God. The pieces are now starting to come together.”
- His favorite club to hit is his driver.
- He has a 5 handicap. The average golfer has a handicap of 20. (The lower the number, the better the golfer.)
- He loves teaching golf and avidly volunteers for several foundations through First Tee.
- He started a YouTube channel, “Knox Talks,” where he speaks with people in the community about their experiences during the pandemic and spreads a message of hope, positivity, and solidarity.
- He is a “fishkeeper” and owns more than 100 fish, which he stores in aquariums at his house.
- His dream car is a 2019 Lamborghini Huracan.