Kenneth Montgomery, a 45-year-old criminal defense attorney from Brooklyn, has been working on his game at The Bridge Golf Learning Center in Harlem. He recently fielded some questions from Co-Founder and Executive Director Farrell Evans.
FE: How did your first start playing golf?
KM: I caddied for three summers as a kid at Inwood Country Club in Queens. But I didn’t really get interested in the game until about 15 years ago during my first job out of Fordham Law School as a prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. Some of my colleagues took me out to Dyker Beach Golf Course and I hit one good shot and I fell in love with the game. I’ve been playing on and off ever since.
FE: Tell us about your childhood in the Brownsville and Crowns Heights sections of Brooklyn?
KM: When I grew up in New York in the 70s and 80s, it was a culturally rich place. But systematically many African Americans in the city had been alienated economically, academically, socially and politically, and I grew up in that alienation, where the system wanted us to starve out. Many of my friends didn’t make it out of high school. They were killed. Many of the ones that did make it out of high school went to prison. Fortunately, I had two parents who were hard-working, and they were able to give me some stability amongst the dysfunction that I had to grow up in.
FE: You’re giving back to the Brownsville community. Tell us about your mentoring program, The Brooklyn Combine?
KM: We introduce the kids to a different perspective. I think that it is important to create our own narrative. We partner with a local school. We run programs from STEM to photography to mock trial to life skills. Recently, a guy that I prosecuted for gun possession during my time at the Brooklyn DA’s office, who went to jail for 11 years, came to talk to our students about his experiences. He let them know that they are not alone with many of their problems. It’s a very powerful program. It’s the most important thing I’m doing right now.
FE: Tell us about your law practice.
KM: I represent people who in some cases have been charged with capital murder. I represent people who have been charged with terrorism. I represent in civil rights actions families of people who have been killed by police. I do some civil litigation, but most of my time is spent in trial or preparing to go into trial for some very serious cases. I also teach at my alma mater, Fordham Law School, and at Brooklyn College.
FE: In The Learning Center, you and your three children work with Randy Taylor, one of our teaching professionals. How is it going?
KM: One of the striking things about coming into The Learning Center is that in this capitalist society that we live in, no one said anything about money or how much the lessons would cost. It was all about golf and teaching. How can we help you get better at golf? Randy and the staff have really embraced our family. I would love for my kids to become great golfers, but there is something for them to learn from being in an environment that is nurturing.
FE: What are you and Randy working on to help you improve your game?
KM: When you get these bad habits, they stick with you. Randy has been helpful in breaking down the swing and understanding the swing plane and using my body properly in the swing. I have a lot of athleticism, but it doesn’t always work in golf if you don’t know how to access it. Randy has slowed down the process for me. In golf you can get really frustrated, and I think Randy has slowed me down a bit to see what I can do. Now I just have to put in the work to get there.
FE: You have your 14-year-old, 10-year-old and 8-year-old also in lessons with Randy. How have they responded so far to the experience? Is it Dad pushing them, or are they self-motivated?
KM: My 14-year-old is an athlete — a football player. When I was playing regularly he would go to the golf course with me. But he was tiny then. Physically, he’s now a grown man. They all really like it. My 8-year-old has been hounding me forever to learn how to play. The TrackMan simulator in the Learning Center is like a video game to them.
FE: What are your long-term goals as a golfer?
KM: There was a period where I could break 100 at will as a weekend golfer. Then I got to a period where I could shoot in the high 80s and low 90s. I would like to see if I could get into the low 80s. If I can get into the low 80s and maybe break 80 occasionally, I would be fine. I have friends who are scratch golfers, and I have gone out with them and they tell me that I have a lot of potential. So it’s frustrating. But when you have a busy law practice and three children and a wife, it’s hard to put a lot of time into golf.
FE: What are you reading?
KM: I’m schizophrenic with reading. I read 20 books at a time. I’m reading “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas” by Ibram X. Kendi; “Black Revolutionary: William Patterson and the Globalization of the African-American Freedom Struggle” by Gerald Horne; and “From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime” by Elizabeth Hinton.
And I always keep a book by Frantz Fanon around. Besides Malcolm X, Fanon has really painted a picture of this world that makes sense to me.