By Jamie Handy, PGATOUR.COM
Broken home. Low income. High crime in the neighborhood.
DeAndre Diggs grew up in Baltimore and was faced with these harsh realities from an early age. He wasn’t alone. Many families and kids in the area could relate to the challenges of overcoming financial hardships and crime-ridden neighborhoods.
When things seemed as though they couldn’t get harder, Diggs’ home was broken into. His family had to rebuild all that had been taken from them, which was not a lot to begin with.
Trying to financially recover, the Diggs’ family continued to try to give their son two things they still did have — love and structure.
“My story is similar to others in Baltimore,” Diggs said, “but my family made sacrifices. At the end of the day, it’s not where you were born, but how you were raised.
“I had a loving environment and I had structure. I was told right from wrong.”
Just as hope began to be restored, less than a year later, the unimaginable happened — a house fire destroyed their family home.
“We lost everything — twice,” Diggs said. “My family was poor, going further into debt and they still tried to keep me in private school. It just kept pushing us further back.”
Although Diggs and his family felt like they were in a dark tunnel with no light, Diggs always wanted to keep pushing forward to “see something.”
And, while he may not have realized it then, that light he saw at the end of the tunnel was Caves Valley Golf Club.
“It was life changing since my first day at Caves Valley,” Diggs said.
Caves Valley is where Diggs took his first job, and the club has rallied around him and his story ever since.
“It was a great platform to see a cohesive team and work for someone that paid attention to their team and had community involvement,” Diggs said. “It was one of the best clubs that had a community that showed how to become a leader.”
Diggs had been part of the First Tee – Baltimore since he was eight years old, his first exposure to golf, and Caves Valley helped to really stir his passion for the sport.
“I was interested in playing for my team in high school, but I got cut the first time,” he said. “I was still very passionate about golf and kept participating at First Tee – Baltimore.
“Every event, I was there. Sunup to sundown. Later one summer, I won the RBC Wealth Management Shot for College Tournament, which gave me a $2,500 scholarship.”
Crediting his persevering attitude and work ethic to his experiences at First Tee – Baltimore, Diggs was able to make the golf team as an alternate the following season. He continued to improve, starting at the five slot for his team and working hard to be in the number one spot by his senior year of high school.
Finding success on the golf course, Diggs knew his studies were also extremely important. He set his sights on higher education, driving himself to do his best in the classroom as well as learn as much as possible from leaders at Caves Valley.
As his family continued to recover from its second home tragedy, Diggs started to chip away at the college application process. Naturally, he worried about the cost of higher education and exploring financial aid and student loan options.
To Diggs’ surprise, however, he learned he had been selected as the recipient of a $100,000 scholarship from the Caves Valley Golf Club Foundation.
While Diggs recalls that his golf game at the time of receiving the scholarship may not have been up to par just yet, there were many people who believed in him and knew his story, and that was plenty. Diggs continued to work hard and went on to enroll at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the only HBCU that has a Professional Golf Management program.
“Going to a university like UMES, I found there to be a lot of students with similar stories to mine, but at the same time, embraced that we all are unique,” Diggs said.
“The other students had passions and desires, just like I did, so they were very beneficial to be around.”
Diggs played for the golf team at UMES and was able to compete against other strong HBCU golf teams such as Hampton and Florida A&M.
“It was great to play with other people (who) have been in our shoes,” Diggs said.
With the scholarship from the Caves Valley Golf Club Foundation, the months of August through April were covered. It was during the summers that Diggs had to find a way to continue to support himself financially.
“I was thinking, ‘How can I make it from April to August with not much?’” Diggs said.
Through the PGM program at UMES, students must complete 16 months of internships to be certified. Most of his summers, Diggs filled his time working at different golf clubs. His first internship was at Caves Valley as an outside attendant. The second was at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. He then became an assistant intern at Congressional Country Club working in the pro shop, serving as a marshal and overseeing the employees in the cart barn and driving range.
Eager for more golf experience in different parts of the industry, Diggs even decided to work at Arundel Golf Park, where he helped increase sales 20-30 percent, despite the pandemic.
Currently, Diggs works at Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta as an intern in food and beverage, where he continues to pave his way toward a career as a general manager at a club.
“One thing I took away (from my Caves Valley mentor) is that you have to do a great job as far as managing your team and staff,” Diggs said. “This is the mindset I have when I’m in a management role. Everyone is a part of the team.”
Diggs’ story hasn’t been easy. It has taken a lot of hard work and endurance to overcome his past. But between the help of his family and the Caves Valley Golf Club Foundation, Diggs had the support group to lead to his current success — and encouragement towards his long-term goals in the golf industry.
Though Diggs’ story started similarly to those growing up in the tough neighborhoods of Baltimore, he’s determined to make sure it inspires others in the end.