It’s fitting that Steve Tooshkenig was chosen to be involved with the upcoming N7 Golf Initiative. For the past several years he has been introducing golf to Native youth — one of the main things he’ll be doing once the Nike venture launches in July.
Tooshkening, who has Ojibwe, Delaware and Potawatomi ancestry, has been selected as one of the Fab 5 — the small group of professional Native golfers will be spokespeople for the N7 Golf Initiative.
In addition to encouraging Native youngsters to take up golf, the Nike program will allow Native-owned golf courses to sell N7 golf merchandise, with parts of the proceeds going back into Native youth golf projects. “I think this is a step in the right direction, building up the grassroots programs,” Tooshkening says. “I believe we can go out to the different communities and support our youth.”
He has been doing just that since early 2009, when he founded his company, ST Golf Inc. (ST being his initials). Through this company, Tooshkening goes into Native communities and shows them how golf can not only boost a player’s self-esteem and bring wellness into the community but how the sport can also create numerous social and economic opportunities for those of all ages.
Although he believes more Natives are becoming interested and involved in golf, he says there is still plenty of awareness work to be done. “I think it’s the fastest growing sport in Aboriginal communities. Now First Nations are using golf as a way to socialize. But we’re looking to see what we can do to make their communities even better.”
Though he is not on staff there, for the past seven years Tooshkening has taught golf at the MontHill Golf and Country Club, a Native-owned facility in Caledonia, Ontario.
Tooshkening, 39, grew up on the Walpole Island First Nation and is a member of the Bkejwanong Territory in southwestern Ontario. He started playing golf at the age of six. His golf skills eventually landed him on the golf team at St. Clair County Community College in Port Huron, Michigan.
After completing the two-year Criminal Justice program there, Tooshkening turned pro. He competed in a few Canadian Tour events as well as some tournaments on the tour organized by the defunct First Nations Golf Association, which attracted many of the top Native players.
While playing in some professional events, most of Tooshkening’s time then was focussed on boosting the pro golf career of his younger sister Cheryl Mitchell, serving as an agent for his sister, managing her contract negotiations as well as her pro golf appearances and public relations.
Mitchell, who retired a couple of years ago, spent the majority of her pro career on the Symetra Tour, which is a step below the prestigious LPGA Tour. Mitchell now assists her brother in running ST Golf Inc.
Through ST Golf Inc., Mitchell and Tooshkening are now hoping to assist budding Native teen golfers on their quest to play at the collegiate level. “When we were younger we didn’t know where to turn to,” Tooshkening says of the days he and his sister were looking to extend their golf careers beyond high school.
Helping others achieve their goals now is a large part of ST Golf Inc.’s mission.
Since March of 2015, Tooshkening has also served as a regional coordinator for the Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Council of Ontario (ASWCO). His duties include working with First Nations communities to build grassroots programs for various sports.
One of ASWCO’s upcoming events is the Ontario Aboriginal Summer Games in July. The golf portion of these Games will be staged at the MontHill Golf and Country Club.