It’s called the U.S. Open, but Fred Terrell believes it will help close the gap in Los Angeles.
Terrell, a longtime Los Angeles Country Club member, sees this massive tournament as an opportunity to grow the game of golf, assist underserved communities in South L.A. and forge friendships that might never have happened.
“Any opportunity you have for people to get together and learn about each other, to dispose of preconceived notions about each other, you’re better off,” said Terrell, 68, who rose from humble beginnings — he was the son of a janitor and raised in Compton and La Puente — to attend Yale, build a successful career as a Wall Street investment banker and now focus his efforts on giving back to the community.
He was at the leading edge of the planned $15-million renovation of the Maggie Hathaway Golf Course, a nine-hole par-three just down Century Boulevard from SoFi Stadium at the corner of 98th Street and Western Avenue.
“Fred spearheaded this whole thing,” said Glen Porter, CEO of Southern Area Youth Programs, Inc. (SAYPI). “The first person I met with this project was Fred Terrell. He came over and said, `Show me around.’ We walked around and I showed him the golf course, and that’s how all this got started.”
The project is a collaboration involving LACC, the United States Golf Assn., Southern California Golf Assn., private donors and county and city political leaders.
“The common thread is a love for golf,” Terrell said. “They love golf at Maggie Hathaway. They love golf at LACC. Let’s put that energy together and marry our influence with what we can do in fundraising, when dollars are shorter at the public level. Let’s do something by pulling together the corporate sector.”
Terrell divides his time between L.A. and New York. His wife, Jonelle Procope, just retired from her 20-year tenure as president and CEO of the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Their sons live in California, as does Terrell’s older brother, Emmett, a retired deputy superintendent with the Pomona Unified School District.
The Terrells’ late father, also named Emmett, was a janitor at a supermarket in Compton and later at a drugstore in La Puente. He and their mother, Wilda, stressed the importance of giving back to the community.
“We didn’t have much,” Fred Terrell said, “but I remember my father bringing food home to others who had less. He was there with candy, with food that was not used. He was always there to help. … It was the early ‘60s, and there was a lot of racial intolerance, but my parents held their head high. They were so proud of what they did and what they gave to me, and what they instilled in my brother.”
Terrell, with his easy laugh and round-framed John Lennon glasses, still feels a deep connection to South L.A. As a teen, he played bass guitar in Everyday People, a Sly & the Family Stone tribute band. He said he didn’t know about LACC until adulthood, and always assumed it was a cemetery on the other side of those hedges along Wilshire Boulevard, not a country club.
“As I’ve gotten to know it over the last 20-plus years, I’ve learned it’s a club open for business in Los Angeles,” said Terrell, who also belongs to Cypress Point in Pebble Beach and formerly belonged to Quaker Ridge in Scarsdale, N.Y.
“By that I mean we care about the larger community. This is rarefied territory. Not everybody plays here. Not everybody knows about it. But there are real people who belong to the club who really do care about L.A., all of L.A. This was an opportunity for the club at its biggest moment to show that.”