Duffer launches magazine for black golfers

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert
Debert Cook in City Hall Park near her office.
In the short time that Debert Cook has played golf, her learning curve has been as tough as making par at Augusta.

Cook first picked up a club a little more than a year ago. Today, she is the publisher of African American Golfer’s Digest, a brand-new quarterly magazine that she runs out of her Fulton St. office.

“All of a sudden, I’m the expert on where to go, what to do in golf,” Cook said. “It’s good, because I need to know these things.”

Cook, 44, has picked up a huge body of knowledge since she started golf lessons at Chelsea Piers in May of 2002. An event planner, Cook wanted to learn how to putt so she could join in the corporate golfing events to which she was often invited.

When she went into bookstores to find information on her new hobby, Cook didn’t find any publications geared towards African Americans. So she decided to create one herself.

“I see an opportunity here,” Cook recalled thinking.

Cook, a Staten Island resident, serves as the only full-time employee of African American Golfer’s Digest. She works out of a small but tidy office on Fulton St., at the mouth of the Broadway/Nassau/ Fulton St. subway station, where she oversees a small army of freelancers who handle most of the writing and advertising duties.

The magazine launched in March and has since garnered 80,000 subscriptions. The digest targets young and old, professional and amateur, Cook said.

The magazine aims to broaden the public’s view of African Americans’ involvement in golf: the game’s most prominent minority practitioner, Tiger Woods, receives some mention but is not featured prominently in the first issue. Instead, the first edition includes such features as the best places to golf in Africa, tips on golfing techniques and golf fashions designed by African Americans.

“For my first issue, I didn’t want him on the cover,” Cook said of Woods. “I wanted to see regular African-American people having a good time.”

That’s not to say that Cook doesn’t admire the 27-year-old golfing sensation. She hasn’t met him yet, but when she does she would like to thank him for the role he has played in opening up the sport to minorities.

In the meantime, Cook is working on expanding her business. She hopes the magazine will be on newsstands by March of next year. One of the biggest challenges, she said, has been attracting advertisers, who generally like to see a proven track record.

Cook is well aware that more than half of all new magazines fail before they reach their first anniversary. But she takes encouragement from her digest’s rapid surge in subscriptions, which have quadrupled since its launch.

“I really see our magazine as targeting a niche market that is ready for this,” Cook said.

For years, many African Americans did not feel comfortable going to a golf course unless they were part of a group, Cook said. These days, it’s more common for them to head to the green alone or in a couple.

Cook also looks to expand the magazine by holding charitable and other golfing events. African American Golfer’s Digest is wholly owned by Event Planners Plus!, Cook’s business. She said that she did not see the potential for conflict of interest in this joint arrangement, noting that the magazine hasn’t yet covered an event that she has planned.

Cook invested $50,000 of her own money to start the magazine, a mixture of retirement account funds and savings. She has no regrets.

“It’s been worth it,” Cook said. “It’s a lot of fun.”


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