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Taraji P. Henson Makes Hole-in-One with New Film

When Taraji P. Henson signed on to play a real-life golf coach in the movie From the Rough, she wanted to nail it. She considered studying everything about the sportswoman – her walk, her talk, her gestures. But when the actress talked on the phone with the living legend, she soon realized none of those inconsequential details mattered.

“She told me, ‘No, just tell my story,'” Henson recalls.

Based on a true story, From the Rough highlights a hero many may be unfamiliar with – Dr. Catana Starks, the first Black woman to coach a men’s NCAA golf team.

Once the former swim coach took on the challenge of assembling Tennessee State University’s first group of competitive golfers, Starks was faced with a slew of challenges. Not only had she entered a White male-dominated game as a female, but she had also only played the sport leisurely.

Even after solidifying her roster and whipping her players into shape, she encountered yet another hurdle. The TSU alum recruited players from across the globe to complete her lineup, but the NCAA attempted to prevent her multicultural bunch from competing due to “a lack of diversity.” Starks convinced them otherwise.

“What she did was absolutely right. You want diversity. How about I’m a Black female coach? There’s your diversity right there,” Henson exclaims. “All of the odds were stacked against her. Every time she was met with another obstacle, she knocked it down. She’s a warrior. She’s an inspiration.”

Starks’ tenacity and courage is what attracted the Oscar-nominee to the role.

“I just thought, ‘Wow! A female coach! This is badass! I’ve never seen that.’ I just love her story and what she believed in. She was clear on her purpose,” Henson explains.

By the time Starks ended her tenure as coach, her team had become national championships–a title the school still holds today.

Some of her athletes went on to coach Tiger Woods and compete in professional tournaments, but the lessons she taught extended well beyond the golf course, Henson shares.

“One of the messages in the story is what kind of men she helped make, because they all became successful in whatever they did,” she says. “They were good men with good morals thanks to her.”

Henson’s character isn’t the only inspiring role in the film. LeToya Luckett, Henry Simmons and the late Michael Clarke Duncan star in the movie as well.

“It was amazing to work with him. We had this one emotional scene, and he was totally available, which helped me,” Henson reflects. “He just was great. I love him, and I’m going to miss him. We lost a family member. He’s not coming to the big party, but he’s watching over us.”

With limited films featuring Black females as the lead, From the Rough proves why that should change.

“These are the stories that make such an impact. It has to do well, because otherwise stories like this will just disappear,” Henson says.

Be sure to catch this uplifting movie about passion and perseverance when it hits theaters April 25.

About Najja Parker

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Najja Parker is a writer and editor with experience in multimedia journalism. Her work has been featured in various publications, such as SecondCityStyle.com and ChicagoTalks.org. She holds a BA in English and Theater from Spelman College and an MA in Journalism from Columbia College Chicago. When she’s not writing, you can find her playing in nail polish, creating some of the trendiest and coolest nail art designs. Follow her at @NajjaNotes.