A rather different golf tournament - the Capitol Pro-Am - will be held June 18 in Washington. Scheduled to be played at Langston Municipal Golf Course in Near Northeast, the tournament's proceeds will provide college scholarships for inner-city youths.
The brains behind the tournament belong to Joseph Whitfield, a 46 year old retired Navy Department computer programmer who manages Langston for the National Park Service.
Whitfield, who has lived in Washington since 1953, knows his golf. After turning pro on the all-black United Golf Association (UGA) Tour in 1961, Whitefield organized and was elected president of the United Professional Golfers' Association, a group dedicated to improving the lot of black professional golfers.
The group disbanded after about three years when many of the players joined the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Mini-Tour. Whitefield served as an assistant pro at Northampton Country Club in Prince George's Country for a year and a half in 1972 and 1973 and has been head pro and business manager at Langston since 1975.
One of his dreams is to see more black children play golf. But he thought up his scholarship plan because so many of those were not interested in the game.
"When I first came here (to Langston), we had all kinds of problems with the neigborhood kids. They used to use the grounds for a playground and they had all sorts of short cuts across the grass, leading to and from school.
"You'd have just crushed a real good drive when, suddenly, five or six young kids would go trooping across the fairway trying to find balls to play with or something. Since I was manager, I had to do something about it, so I began inviting them out on Saturday mornings and I would teach them how to play the game and let them know they could earn themselves some money by becoming caddies for the golfers.
"It solved two problems at once. The kids learned to respect the course and the golfers and they did something positive for themselves at the same time.
"Then, one day, I got to talking with two of my friends, Donald Wills and Arnold Geroge, and we decided to take the junior golf program a little further by starting a scholarship fund to send a kid who has the character, intelligence and athletic ability to play golf to college."
That was in 1977. Although this year's tournament is the second of what Whitfield hopes will be an annual affair, last year's program ran into unexpected trouble. There was no recipient for the money.
"I donated $1,000 of my own money last year," Whitfield said. "But we ran into a big problem right away. The Interhigh coaches had stopped fielding golf teams right in the middle of their season because they weren't getting paid to coach. . . . We never could get all the coaches together to vote on a kid to receive the funds.
"So we put that money in the bank, and this year's recipient will get that thousand, plus whatever we make off the tournament."
The tournment will be a one-day, 18-hole affair on the 6,391-yard, par-72 course named for John Mercer Langston, the first black elected to public office in the United States (clerk of Brownhelm Township, Ohio, 1855). For Whitfield, the tournament will be another step along the road to the resurrection of the Langston course.
"When I first started here, the grass was this high - on the greens," said Whitfield, who is more than six feet tall as he pointed to his waist.
"But just look at it now. It's a beautiful course. There's rolling grounds, trees, tight greens and a river running right through the premises. It's just like being out in the country. Once you leave the first tee, there's no noise from traffic at all. Just you and nature and that little white ball."
The tournament is open to the public. There is no admittance fee for spectators. Entry fees are $35 for pros and $22 for amateurs. A group of local celebrities, including Mayor Walter E. Washington, CIty Councilman Arrington Dixon, WJLA-TV newsman Paul Berry and members of the Redskins and Bullets will be entered in the field.
Interested participants, donors and sponsors should call the Langston pro shop at 398-6005 for further information.Parents wishing to register their children for the Junior Golf Program may call the Pro Shop or bring their children to Langston on Saturday mornings for the one-hour clinics (9 to 10 a.m.) The course is at 24th Street and Benning Road NE, just north of RFK Stadium.