Debert Cook could be seen as a classic over–OVER achiever. Let’s see now. She is an accomplished businesswoman, a magazine publisher, a writer, and a traveler-consultant…and she wraps it all up in her golf clubs.
“These are all the things I love to do,” transplanted New Yorker Cook told the Amsterdam News. “All of my activities are under my magazine the African American Golfer’s Digest.”
Cook launched the publication in March 2003, “bringing news, information, and activities in the ‘soulful’ world of golf.” She is the first Black woman to wholly own a Black-focused golf magazine in the U.S.A.
“My whole focus is Black people in golf,” she said. “The feature of the magazine is to show those golfers who don’t get covered in the major magazines.
“Everything I do benefits the magazine to keep it publishing. The travel programs to follow under that.”
Her headquarters is in New York City’s Financial District, but it is a quintessential case of catch-her-if-you-can. She is a dedicated global traveler and has visited 52 countries and 6 continents.
She conducts tours, taking Black folks all over the world under her massive golfing umbrella. But, with her curious mind and love of adventure, her globetrotting is about peace and recreation too, she added.
Recently returning from Ghana, as one of the reported 700,000 visitors who took the nation up on their Year of Return push, Cook has visited over eight African nations.
Golf is a great way to enhance your social and business network, Cook insists. Her golfing and travel pursuits have just taken her to; Ghana, Jamaica, Hawaii, Alaska, Cuba, Dubai, South Africa.
As well as being the magazine’s publisher, Cook is also the president/CEO of Event Planners Plus! NA Inc., a corporate and small business meeting management and solutions firm specializing in everything from public seminars to training programs, incentives travel, cruise meetings, and awards galas.
She has been playing golf for about 16 and a half years. Her magazine is just slightly younger.
“I am a communications major, so I’ve always written poetry and stuff like that. And when it comes to business you have to write your own proposals and pitches and grants. So, I took a couple of classes and that helped me, because I had only been doing business writing.”
It all circles back to golf for her.
“I’ve always loved sports. And my swing was pretty good,” said the former competitive discus thrower. “I love the outdoors—I’m a walker and jogger. I love nature. And all that comes together on the golf course, and it fits into my lifestyle really well.”
But, a golf advocate for Black people was not her first career goal.
“I started working in corporate when I graduated from Youngstown State, Ohio, and I moved to New York and got a job at Philip Morris working with lobbyists on the tobacco issues and smoking legislation. I was the person who handled all the meetings. I worked under a real nice Black director too and she got me engaged in a lot of things that were going on. That’s how I got into the meeting/planning business; I got my certification in the industry, and then after working 20 years of working corporate, I decided to open my own firm Events Planners Plus in 1998, on Fulton Street, in Downtown Manhattan.”
From her media planning business, Cook said, “As a business owner I kept getting invited to golf events. Those meetings got me into golf.”
She saw how big of a stack of business cards her one time boss would return to the office with after the golf conference. She had an epiphany.
“If I want to meet people and get leads for my business, I should play in golf in this tournament during the conference,” the thought bubble over her head said. “I had not played golf. I played tennis, I did track and field. I was third in the city in the discus, then I played girls’ basketball. I was in the band. I was a majorette. Come to find that my track and field and throwing the discus is what helped me with my swing in golf.
“It has been really good for my business. A lot of my clients have come through the golf network.”
She has something for the skeptics.
“Even if you’re not a good player you go to the banquets and network and meet with people. But on the golf course you get to spend four, five hours with a person. And all these people are the business owners, on the board of directors, or they lead big firms. So, you are really networking with major players on the course in a very casual environment.”
Cook stresses the business and health components. And then here comes the female empowerment elevator pitch: “Women are the fastest growing segment, and Black women are at the top of that list. I think it is because Baby Boomers are starting to retire, and they are looking to stay active and fit, and stay social. Golf does all that for you because it’s a game you can play for a lifetime. It’s not like you’re gonna age out golf. I just played golf with a lady who was 78-years-old, and she was in good health, she was picking up her balls, she was swinging her clubs, she was walking the course.”
What of the class element? The
Amsterdam News inquired.
“It is mostly touted as an upper class game because it is expensive, but there are ways around that,” Cook insisted. “A lot of the Black people who play are retired seniors, who worked at good corporations and have good pensions. But, there are plenty of people who have regular blue collar jobs, and aren’t in a supervisory or leadership role, and they [play]. There’s so many discounts at the courses for senior citizens, you get clubs on eBay, or used equipment at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and all those places.”
But, Cook conceded, there is a heavy transportation consideration, where you have to get out to where those lush, multi-acre courses are by personal car, dedicated driver or bus.
Youth involvement is being encouraged, Cook said.
“There are a lot of programs that can tie in scholarships for college-bound students, or students who are in college. In Harlem they tie it into tutoring or STEM programs, and they have big golf fundraisers at the Y.”
As for golf courses, Cook said there is; “Marine Park in Brooklyn, Mosholu, Pelham Bay, Van Cortland in the Bronx. We have three on Staten island,” she declared proudly.
Then there are the golf courses in Ghana, Dubai, South Africa, and Jamaica.
“Yeah, and we played two courses in Alaska, with the eagles and the bears,” she chuckled at the memory of being watched by the bear cubs. “Where’s their bear cubs––there’s a mama bear somewhere close!”
Promoting golfing for business and pleasure, she added, “I’m trying to go to Antarctica in February, where I can take my golf clubs so I can take a nice photo.”
Still, Cook says that she gets that golf may not be the first thing on most folks’ mind.
“Everybody starts there not knowing anything, then you go and get a golf shirt with a collar, maybe rent some shoes, or wear tennis shoes, rent some equipment at the club––no jeans. You call in advance if you want some instruction about $44-75, and you learn some basics, and how to swing a club, etc., it might run you about $140.”
Cook says that her magazine serves over 80,000 readers each quarter, and has been featured in media such as; The Golf Channel, ESPN, BBC and The Network Journal, and Black Enterprise.
Cook is a Certified Meetings Professional, and her firm’s clients have included the State of the Black World Conference, the Black Expo New York, and the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Foundation.
Cook is a native of West Virginia, grew up in Ohio, and relocated to New York in 1988. She holds an A.S. degree in music business from Georgia State University, a certification in radio/tv production, a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Youngstown State University and has a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies/history from the City University of New York. As if that was not sufficient, she also has served as an adjunct professor teaching courses in African American Music and African American Art History at the South Bronx campus of The College of New Rochelle.
A member of numerous organizations including: the United States Golf Association (USGA), National Minority Business Council, National Urban League, this serious professional’s professional has earned many distinguished honors such as “Business Leader of the Year” and the Pioneer Award.
Featured in books and magazines, this much-sought after speaker is also a multi-award winning Black business, media, travel and golfing advocate. Cook is a resident of Staten Island in New York. She told the Amsterdam News that four years ago through AfricanAncestry.com she traced her paternal family lineage back to the Ewondo people of Cameroon and the Tsogo people of Gabon.
Cook said that she feels blessed doing her variety of interlocking careers. “It’s all things I really love to do, so it’s not really like work. I love to travel. My event business. I love the magazine. I love getting to know people…the trade shows we do, the Diversity Pavilion at the annual PGA Merchandise Show…so I couldn’t ask for a better career.”
For more information visit the website: AfricanAmericanGolfersDigest.com or call 212-571-6559.