Eastside Golf and Mercedes-Benz Are Teeing Up Golf’s Inclusive Future

Image by Jensen Larson for Mercedes-Benz

In the realm of golf, where tradition often reigns supreme, Eastside Golf emerges as a refreshing beacon of innovation and inclusivity. 

But don’t get it twisted, they’re not just a Black business, they’re a damn good business, driving profit, inclusivity and fire looks on the golfing green.

Founded by two visionary entrepreneurs, Olajuwon Ajanaku and Earl Cooper, this dynamic brand transcends the boundaries of the sport, blending our culture with the timeless traditions of the fairway. Their mission: democratize golf and redefine its image, all while carving out a space where diversity, creativity, and passion converge to challenge the status quo.

Ajanaku and Cooper, whose shared vision and entrepreneurial spirit have propelled the brand to new heights, started the company with a simple desire to create golf apparel that reflects their urban upbringing and resonates with a diverse audience. Today, their vision has evolved into a thriving movement that celebrates individuality and embraces golf as a vehicle for self-expression and community empowerment.

The two visionaries crossed paths during their time on the golf team at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. As student-athletes, they worked hard, they played hard, and ultimately brought home a championship. With winning already underneath their belt, it only makes sense that years later, when Ajanaku had an idea to build a brand drawn together by his interests in design, fashion, and the game of golf, he called upon his brother. Bonding over their shared experiences and aspirations, Ajanaku and Cooper quickly recognized the potential for collaboration and synergy between their respective talents and passions. 

Eastside Golf and Mercedes-Benz Are Teeing Up Golf’s Inclusive Future

“The main reason that I started this brand was because I started being told “no,” says Ajanaku.” “No” to my dreams, “no” to the things that I wanted to do. So, it was just, like, at the end of the day, if I want to turn pro and need sponsorship, why not take the entrepreneur route and sponsor myself? And that’s when I came up with Eastside Golf.

The start of the journey began with a logo showcasing Ajanaku mid-swing, adorned with a gold chain and sporting a hoodie. By that time, Ajanaku had graduated, turned pro in golf and then left the sport to find success as a VP of a finance firm. Cooper, on the other hand, had already been named one of Golf Digest’s “Best Teachers in America” and made making a name for himself within the PGA, becoming the first Black golf professional at Detroit Golf Club and then the first Black golf professional at Wilmington Country Club, before leaving the sport to work for the Mayor’s office.

From that pivotal moment forward, Ajanaku and Cooper embarked on a transformative ride, united by a shared vision to redefine the image of golf and make it more accessible, inclusive, and culturally relevant to a diverse audience.

They’re a movement by themselves, but with their recent collaboration with Mercedes-Benz, they’re positioned to be a force together. They’ve partnered to unveil three pivotal initiatives aimed at fostering grassroots engagement and championing diversity within the sport.

And it’s a partnership that just makes sense. Mercedes-Benz, a longtime sponsor of the Masters Tournament for example, allowed Eastside Golf to bring the brand a true full circle moment —welcoming the Morehouse College golf team to the one-in-a-lifetime experience. This opportunity spotlighted the exceptional talent within HBCU golf as the game’s promising future ambassadors.

Eastside Golf and Mercedes-Benz Are Teeing Up Golf’s Inclusive Future

“They already were in the golf space,” says Ajanaku. “So, this is like the Super Bowl of golf. And so, the fact that they’re already here, the fact that they represent luxury, the fact that it was Black women [bringing this partnership forward], there were a lot of things that brought us together.”

This is just one of several initiatives that mark the beginning of a multi-year partnership between Eastside Golf and Mercedes-Benz, with a shared commitment to tackling access and equity challenges prevalent in golf. 

Eastside Golf and Mercedes-Benz Are Teeing Up Golf’s Inclusive Future
Image by Jensen Larson for Mercedes-Benz

“I don’t think there’s anyone that’s sitting at that intersection of culture in golf the way that Eastside Golf is,” says Monique Harrision, Head of Brand Marketing at Mercedes-Benz. “So many of us watched and admired what they were doing. We continued to have a number of people come to us and speak on their behalf — not like they had solicited someone — but more in the tone of just authentic glowing reviews of what they were achieving and the barriers that they were breaking on an ongoing basis.”

Earlier this month, Eastside Golf and Mercedes-Benz USA also unveiled a unique nine-piece women’s capsule collection, providing female golfers with an avenue to showcase their individuality both on and off the greens, without compromising on functionality or fashion. “When you look at fashion itself, who runs it?” says Cooper. “It is Black women. But then, when you look at golf, who’s never been targeted? It’s Black women.”

This collaborative collection represents Eastside Golf’s inaugural venture into women’s apparel and accessories, characterized by the brand’s renowned craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail. 

Eastside Golf and Mercedes-Benz Are Teeing Up Golf’s Inclusive Future
Image by Jensen Larson for Mercedes-Benz

Central to Eastside Golf’s ethos is a steadfast commitment to challenging stereotypes and breaking down barriers within the golfing world. It’s something that is not only inspiring to witness from afar, but also Black-history — our history — being made in real time. Through their innovative designs, vibrant aesthetic, and unwavering advocacy for diversity and inclusion, Ajanaku and Cooper are redefining what it means to be a golfer in the 21st century. With every swing of the club and every piece of apparel adorned with their iconic logo, the impact of their work will be thanked by hundreds, if not thousands of young Black boys and girls for generations to come.

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