Insight News

Dec 22nd

The Clarence Sutton Memorial Golf Tournament takes kids to college

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It takes a whole lot of work to get 90-100 high school and junior high students to travel from Minnesota, through a multi-state college tour of the South and Midwest. I would imagine that even the kids who participate in the Progressive Education Ministries Black College Tour recognize how difficult it must be for the adults guiding the excited young minds back and forth, on and off the bus. But when St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman makes it an annual routine to participate in the ceremonial send-off, as the kids load the buses, then you know that there must be something really good going on.

The annual Black College Tour is generally held in October, but the biggest fund raising event to make the Tour possible is right around the corner. On June 12 The Clarence Sutton Memorial Golf Tournament will be held at the recently renovated Highland National Golf Course in St. Paul. For those who like golf and golf tournaments, you’d be hard pressed to find one with greater purposes than those pursued by this event. You also may want to catch the 15th hole at the Highland course, which now boasts a sand bunker in the shape of “Snoopy” – I’d imagine quite a few photos will be snapped there during the tournament.

Clarence Sutton passed only a few years ago, but his spirit of concern for education is growing through the Black College Tour, and his love for the game of golf. “He always talked about either education or finance, and he really, really loved to play golf,” said Joanne Clark, College Tour organizer.

Clark added, “He was one of the first around here to host seminars teaching kids about the value of a dollar and the pitfalls of credit cards. He was out front when it came to those things, but he also quietly did many little things to help give the kids a chance to learn and participate. Mrs. Sutton keeps it going with a scholarship program that she has led at Progressive (Baptist Church) for the last couple years.”

Clark is able to unearth one of the greatest lessons of the College Tour through a favorite question of hers: “Did you learn how to go to school for free?”  This is what she asks the College Tour participating youth upon returning, and she highlights a skill that clearly needs to be conveyed throughout the community until it becomes common knowledge.

“Our college tour is unique because it’s open to everybody. We’ve brought kids from Rochester and even Milwaukee. We’ve even begun to bring other cultures so there is diversity,” said Clark.  This year the tour will also include one or more Big Ten schools such as Ohio State University. “We want kids to see different envirnoments. A lot of times there are athletes in the group, and we want them to see all the opportunity that is out there for them. Some of the highlights of the tour are the Black college football game and the museum trip,” added Clark.

The college tour is for students in 8th through 12th grades. “Colleges like when high school students visit their campuses; and the earlier these students are exposed, then the more time the kids and their families have to prepare,” Clark said.
She added, “The best part is when we’re taking kids who would never have had the chance to see this side of things without our program. The other great thing is that the kids have to do some sort of community service, so you will see most of the kids at the golf tournament as well, putting in some work. We want them to understand that they must also give back, just as the sponsors and volunteers give to them. Plus giving back gives the kids something to hold their heads up about.”

Many forms and levels of sponsorship for the golf tournament are in full swing now. The Courtney Henry Family of local McDonalds franchises has been a leading sponsor since the very beginning with the College Tour.

Registration information can be found online at


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