TAMPA — Clemmie Perry’s immersion into the game of golf has gone beyond birdies and bogeys.
Perry had never picked up a club when she started playing in 2013, but quickly realized the social aspects of the game can be as valuable as a nice drive.
"I started to play golf and saw the amount of opportunities that started to line up for me, but I noticed there weren’t as many women of color participating in the game," Perry said. "Golf is a sport of invitation. If you don’t get an invite you don’t have access."
So after taking up the game, Perry created Women of Color Golf to open up the invites and even the playing field for women and women of color. The movement now allows more women the access to get into the corporate world and follow their chosen career paths. The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women recognized Perry’s efforts during its annual Waves of Change luncheon on March 21.
The Waves Award pays tribute to a local woman who has turned the tide for women’s leadership in the Tampa Bay community. Perry’s group has earned national recognition, including being designated as a U.S. White House Champion of Change by former President Barack Obama.
The award, however, meant as much because it came from the community where she and her family grew up.
"It was beyond reality for me," Perry said. "I grew up in West Tampa, so to receive an award like this it means I’m making an impact in the community. It makes it more real because you can see it."
Along with Perry receiving the Waves Award, Joy Mangano was honored with the 2018 Helen Gordon Davis Waves of Change Leadership Award at the luncheon. Mangano expressed appreciation for Perry.
"Clemmie [Perry] is my new best friend," Mangano said. " Her movement shows we’re making progress."
Mangano invented the famed Miracle Mop and actress Jennifer Lawrence portrayed her in the movie Joy, a biopic of Mangano’s journey.
"Receiving the award was an honor," Mangano said. "I’m a strong believer in you start where you stand, so more people need to know about places like the Centre of Women and have courage to move forward."
Ann Madsen, executive director of the Centre of Women appreciated the selfless efforts of both Perry and Mangano.
"I am thrilled to have two wonderful women recognized for helping women," Madsen said.
Perry said having her mother present added to the joy of the day. Both her mother, Doris Ross Reddick, and grandmother, Clemmie Ross James, were change agents in Tampa.
James championed equal pay for black teachers in the 1940s, and Reddick became the first African-American woman elected to the Hillsborough County School Board.
Both James and Reddick have elementary schools named for them in Hillsborough County.
"It was phenomenal," Perry said. " Knowing what they [mom and grandmother] went through to make these changes and see the changes I’m making with golf, it was an honor.
"I want [women] to be empowered and confident in their industry and jobs, especially ones with a predominant male demographic. It’s happening, change is happening and we need the support."
Contact Katelyn Massarelli at [email protected]