Kamaiu Johnson didn’t start playing golf until he was 15, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing a future in the game.

His passion took him to New York, where he caddyed to support his career, before returning to Florida. After moving from Tallahassee to Orlando, he met a group of golfers who told him about the Advocates Professional Golf Association Tour.

“When I first turned pro, it was the only tour where the guys looked like me,” Johnson said. “It felt like home.”

On Monday morning, Johnson – dressed in a light blue polo shirt, navy shorts and white golf shoes – was one of the first golfers to play the No. 1 hole at TPC Scottsdale’s Champions Course, the venue for the latest APGA event. Visit organized Monday and Tuesday.

Founded in 2010, the APGA strives to increase diversity in golf through tournaments held on state-of-the-art courses, player development programs and access to sports psychologists. Other benefits include club training and replacement, according to APGA Tour executive director Cole Smith.

The tour is currently running 18 events with more than $700,000 in prizes, with $25,000 up for grabs Monday and Tuesday in Scottsdale.

Smith said the APGA Tour is “all inclusive.”

“We try to provide diversity at the highest level on the PGA Tour, which means we look for African American and other minority players who have the skills to perform at the highest level on the Tour, as well as within the golf industry,” said Smith.

He added that the APGA Tour offers golfers the opportunity to hone their skills before attempting to join the PGA Tour, the highest level of tournament golf in the world.

Kamaiu Johnson looks down the #1 fairway.  Johnson won the Advocates Professional Golf Association event last week at TPC Las Vegas.

Smith believes more platforms need to be created for APGA players to show off their skills and perform on the best courses in the country. One way to do this, Smith said, is to increase sponsor exemptions, in which tournament sponsors offer places to players outside of a certain field in an event.

This happened recently, when Johnson and Ryan Alford each received a bye to play in the 2022 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.

“It was life changing,” Alford said. “It really benefited me and showed me that it’s only a matter of time before I come back.”

One of the things Alford loves most about the APGA Tour is the location of its events. So far this season, tournaments have been held at TPC courses in Arizona, California and Louisiana. Future venues include Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. and TPC San Antonio.

According to Alford, playing these courses helps prepare APGA golfers for bigger tournaments in the future.

“We play at some of the best facilities the United States has to offer, so giving these youngsters the opportunity to hone their game on something like this is a hell of an opportunity,” said Michael Cooper, Tournament Director of the ‘APGA Tour. “I’m also proud of…the exposure we’re getting. Several of them have secured sponsorship and financial support after being exposed to a different and wider sector of the golfing population through us.”

One of those golfers is Johnson, who signed a two-year endorsement deal with Farmers worth $25,000 a year.

Johnson, the winner of the 2020 APGA Tour Championship, believes the tour can not only help more minority golfers participate in the PGA Tour and the golf industry, but also inspire people to play the game “no matter where. you come”.

Joining Alford, Johnson and other golfers on the Champions Course this week is Notah Begay, an on-course reporter for the Golf Channel who has previously played on the PGA Tour. Begay, a special guest competitor for the 36-hole event, played with Tiger Woods at Stanford.

Ryan Alford leans on a golf cart after hitting his first tee shot.  Alford won the Advocates Professional Golf Association event at TPC Scottsdale last year.

Playing in this week’s APGA event brings back a special memory for Alford, who earned his first professional victory last year at TPC Scottsdale.

Meanwhile, Johnson — the winner of last week’s tour at TPC Las Vegas — is proud of the progress the APGA has made.

“It just means more opportunities for minorities,” Johnson said. “You can’t go on the PGA Tour unless you play on PGA Tour-style golf courses. This APGA Tour is what it offers. It’s a very competitive tour and we play on good golf courses. golf.”