You can discover the joy of golf in a manner that is pure happenstance. Like a mother randomly choosing to go to a driving range and taking her 9-year-old son.
“We were in Puerto Rico at the time,” said Marcos Baugh. “My mom just thought it would be fun to try. She never went again, but I ran with it.”
Ah, but when it comes to spreading the love of golf to other children, the task is not so seamless – at least not when your turf is the inner-city. To begin with, said Baugh, that most time-honored fashion “of passing the game down from grandfather to father to child” is less likely to be available.
“I mean, I understand that golf has its own invisible wall,” said Baugh. “But I don’t agree that golf is racist. I believe the issue is more cultural than race.”
To emphasize his point, Baugh, while speaking inside the clubhouse at the William J. Devine Golf Course at Franklin Park, waves his arms and insists “that there are so many kids who live within a square mile of this place who don’t even know this is a golf course.”
He pauses, shakes his head, and repeats, “the issue is more cultural than race.”
Should that appear to be a reality too daunting to change, one wouldn’t know it by speaking with Baugh. Instead, with a warm smile and buoyant personality, Baugh explains how his journey in golf – from first hitting balls with his mother, Maria Gonzalez-Baugh, to playing his first real golf at Ponkapoag GC in Canton, to walking into The Country Club at age 15 to begin his caddie career, to deciding that he was going to commit to doing everything in his power to get inner-city children to embrace golf – has been fulfilling.
But he wants so much more. To enlist more youngsters to caddie. To ignite a passion for playing golf with more kids. To set up his own shop complete with simulators and monitors.
“Yes,” he said emphatically when asked if he thinks he can make a difference and show inner-city children that there is a place for them in golf. “As long as I stay in front of them, yes, I can connect. But I am only one man.”
It is this focus to a plan that intrigued some members at The Country Club. Ned Corcoran, an attorney who lives in Jamaica Plain, was playing golf at TCC one day in 2019 with Baugh as his caddie. A converstion veered into Baugh’s mission, how he had created what he called Urban Golf Club and was determined to teach kids how to caddie, how he had friends at a neighborhood Boys and Girls Club and the Vine Street Community Center in Roxbury who had available space where he could teach during the offseason.
Corcoran was promptly impressed and told Baugh he could help him set up a 501 (c) (3). What’s more, Corcoran lobbied some fellow members to consider supporting this inspiring endeavor.
“His enthusiasm is infectious,” Corcoran told NBC reporters for a video that was aired during the 2022 U.S. Open at TCC. On that same report, Michael Baugh said his son’s passion for golf had provided “another look at the world for him” and that Marcos was determined to offer that same chance to so many other youngsters.
The three core values of Urban Golf Club are “patience, humility, and accountability,” said Baugh, and he is adamant that golf is an activity that inner-city parents should consider for their children.
“First of all, the golf course is a safe place,” he said, “and it’s better than any summer camp.”
With 14 years of caddie experience at TCC, Baugh stands before young members of his Urban Golf Club and is viewed as someone who walks the walk. He tells these youngsters that options are available in golf and last summer, four young men from the Vine Street Community Center followed Baugh over to the vaunted grounds of The Country Club and strapped bags over their shoulders.
The hope is that word will spread and the caddies who enjoyed the opportunities provided by Baugh’s initiatives and the cooperation of TCC will help grow the caddie ranks within the Urban Golf Club.
In all, Baugh’s UGC efforts connected with just over 50 children between the two community centers. He also was asked to do some work at a Boys and Girls Club in Brockton and presently he is in discussion with the One Love Sports Academy which strives to get at-risk children involved with sports.
Gyms and basketball courts are where he conducts his indoor golf lessons, but Baugh figured out a few years ago that he had to be creative.
“I learned that if I was going to ask them to get involved in golf, it meant I was taking them away from something – and that would be basketball,” said Baugh. So he integrated basketball with golf and with time, he was able to put more of the emphasis on the golf.
A graduate of Fitchburg State College and the son of parents with teaching backgrounds (Michael taught at Boston Latin and is retired; Maria is a counselor at English High School), Marcos also serves as a Teacher’s Assistant in the Boston Public School system.
With his Urban Golf Club students, Baugh incorporates financial literacy into his Urban Golf Club.
“Simple things, like live within your means and don’t spend all your money,” he said. “But getting the cooperation of the parents is everything.”
His is a one-man organization, but Marcos Baugh is indebted to the generous supporters who have helped him purchase mini-putting greens, some indoor nets, shot monitors, and iPads that provide feedback for indoor golf.
When he went to work at The Country Club, Marcos studied the story of Francis Ouimet, a club caddie who in storybook fashion entered and won the 1913 US Open. The part of the story that tugs at Baugh is that Ouimet, an amateur, did more than shock the golf world; he demonstrated that the game did not belong to the rich, it was also for the common man.
“I love that and I’m trying to carry on that legacy,” said Baugh.