By any measure, Earl A. Cooper’s motto—“Dream big, because dreams do come true”—has served him well.
Cooper, 31, is a PGA-ranked golf champion and instructor whom Golf Digest recently named as one of its Best Young Teachers and featured in a spread about the mechanics and mindset of getting your ball out of a bad lie. He founded Earl Cooper Golf to offer his own brand of golf instruction in the region, and also serves as brand ambassador for Eastside Golf, an apparel and lifestyle company launched by his Morehouse College golf teammate Olajuwon Ajanaku.
Cooper is also dreaming big for others by helping raise awareness among Delaware students of color about college opportunities. He currently works in his hometown of Wilmington for the Mayor’s Office and helps organize the city’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Week, which educates students about resources and opportunities.
If that weren’t enough, Cooper’s also written a series of children’s books for elementary school students about the adventures of HBCU mascots at Morehouse, Howard University and Delaware State University to open their minds to a world of possibilities.
Here, Cooper talks about his dream foursome and where he sees himself in the future.
Earl Cooper: I was 6 when I first was introduced to the game. My father saw a flyer for the LPGA Urban Youth Golf Program, which was a nonprofit that was started when DuPont Country Club hosted the McDonald’s Championship, a major on the ladies’ professional golf tour.
EC: Not at all. Nobody around me played golf, and from the ages of 6 to 12 I was good, but I was like, “Where are all my friends?” So the social element wasn’t there, and I think, as a kid, that’s all you’re really looking for.
EC: I got hooked at 12 or 13 when I ended up winning the Golf Channel Drive Chip and Putt in Virginia. Then I went to Williamsport [Pennsylvania] and won a regional championship. I had a free trip to Disney World, I was on TV and I ended up finishing second at nationals. That’s when I realized, oh wow, golf can create opportunities that I never imagined before.
EC: The game is very difficult, and I think it’s being taught wrong in many cases. We’re teaching folks as though this is going to be their career one day instead of teaching them how to just have fun and beat their buddies. …The majority of folks that play golf aren’t good. [Cooper laughs.] When you see golf on TV, it’s like a highlight reel—pretty much just the good shots or the folks that are performing well. That doesn’t give you an accurate depiction of the whole 18 holes or the journey. So, a lot of times I start by saying, “Listen, most golfers aren’t good, so don’t put that pressure on yourself where you have to be excellent.”
EC: I would love to play with Barack Obama, Michael Jordan and…my dad. Golf is about camaraderie and fellowship, and I think that they would have some amazing stories.
EC: I wrote my first book in 2011, in my senior year of college. Growing up, I didn’t know about Morehouse College—and I wondered how many other kids out there who, just like me, have no idea that this great institution exists. I want to do my part and make an impact, and I felt that writing the book was a great way to plant the seed of college in kids’ minds at an early age. I wrote about Howard University in 2013 and in 2016, Delaware State University. I really enjoy going into classrooms and donating and reading my books to students.
EC: As a global leader in the golf space who is diversifying the game of golf. I really want to be one of the individuals that has folks looking back and saying, “Man, back in 2020, during the COVID crisis, there was a group of folks that really sparked a change in golf, and now we can see a difference in the game from a diversity perspective.” A huge goal of mine is to have young brown and Black kids look at golf and see people that look like them and see people that they can relate to.