The History of African American’s in Golf is a strange and winding tale of racism, discrimination and segregation. Golf has always had an air of mystique and the general population’s perception saw it as the game of the rich and famous. Well, African Americans have excelled in every aspect of life and of course golf is no exception, but the institutional segregation of courses, associations and country clubs made it impossible for African Americans to display their talents and just as important to earn a living. Until resent history African Americans were stuck in the roles of caddies and country club staff. Oh, but times are a changing………
We will feature some aspect of African American Golf History from the African American Perspective on a regular basis, take look at “Charlie Sifford”.
1896 – John Shippen became the first black to play in the U.S. Open. He began the second day of the event tied for first place! He had a disastrous stroke of luck that began when his drive landed in a sand trap. He took eleven strokes to complete the 13th hole!
1899 – Dr. George Grant – Invented the golf tee, it was the first to be registered by the US Patent office. But, the prominent Boston dentist never marketed his invention. Twenty-five years later, a white golfer patented a tee, marketed it, and was credited with the invention.
*date un clear – Ann Gregory is reputed to be the first black woman to enter a USGA event.*date un clear -under research.
1925 – George Adams became a founding member of the United Golf Association.
1935 – Women’s Eastern Champion -Rhonda Fowler was a pioneering black woman golfer.
1948 – Theodore “Rags” Rhodes, Bill Spiller and Madison Gunther filed a civil lawsuit against the PGA, for civil rights violations. The PGA changes to an ‘invitation only” format to avoid its legal and moral obligations to let these black men play in the PGA tournaments. But by standing up and taking a stance these men made significant in-roads and gained empathy for the movement.
1950 – Ann Gregory wins the National UGA Tournament in Washington, D.C., she won a total of six championships of the seven tournaments that she entered.
1954 – Harold Dunovant turned pro and was one of the first black golfers to attend the PGA Business School in Long Beach, California. He is the head pro at Minorcas Golf Course in Winston Salem and the founder of the National Black Golfers Hall of Fame.
1956- Ann Gregory becomes the first African American to enter the U.S. Amateur Championship held in Indianapolis, Indiana.
1962 – Charlie Sifford becomes the first African American PGA Tour member.
1963 – Althea Gibson broke the color line, and as it is well documented was highly successful as a tennis professional.
1964 – Pete Brown Win’s the Waco Open.
1966 – Ben Davis was admitted to the Michigan PGA.
1967 – Renee Powell Joined the LPGA Tour and was a active competitor for 13 years. Now She works with the golfing industry promoting minority golf and running Clearview Golf Course founded by her father.
1968 – Ben Davis becomes the first Black head Gof Course Pro at Rackham Golf Course in Detroit, MI.
1975 – Lee Elder becomes the first black to play at the Masters Tournament at Augusta National.
More…. from Aesop Robinson Golf Association “We Love This Game!” http://www.arga.org/news/ns_hist.html
THEY ALTERED THE COURSE OF GOLF HISTORY
Click a thumbnail to see the full-size picture,
then use your Web browser’s BACK button to return to this page!Contestant: In 1896, John Shippen became the first black to play in the U.S. Open. He began the second day of the event tied for first place! He had a disastrous stroke of luck that began when his drive landed in a sand trap. He took eleven strokes to complete the 13th hole! Inventor: In 1899, George Grant received the first patent for the golf tee. But, the prominent Boston dentist never marketed his invention. Twenty-five years later, a white golfer patented a tee, marketed it, and was credited with the invention. “Forbidden Fairways” is published by Sleeping Bear Press in Chelsea, Michigan. The author, Calvin H. Sinnette, presents a straightforward and informative book that describes the exploits of many courageous, innovative and determined individuals. The book’s jacket cover depicts Bill Spiller, a legendary black golfer during the 1940’s and 50’s, sitting forlornly on a bench at the 1952 San Diego Open, head in his hand, dejection on his face, after being excluded from the tournament because of the Professional Golfers’ Association’s color bar. Founder: In 1925, George Adams became a founding member of the United Golf Association. Golf Architect: Because of his race, Joseph Bartholomew could not play on the golf courses he designed and built! Pioneer: Rhonda Fowler was a pioneering black woman golfer and tournament champion. Champion: Ann Gregory won dozens of events and was known as the “Queen of Negro Golf.” Unofficial “Ace:” Out of the caddie ranks emerged some of the finest golfers the country has seen. The golfing exploits of such ex-caddies as Gene Saracen, Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson are well known. Less known are the caddying careers of black golfers Charlie Sifford, Ted Rhodes and Lee Elder.Clyde Martin was another of those highly rated – but seldom mentioned – black golfers who began his career as a caddie. Born in southern Maryland, he began to caddie at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda during his pre-teen years. This was in the late 1920s when the renowned Tommy Armour held sway as the club’s professional. Armour soon recognized Martin’s golfing talents and began to pit the young caddie against visitors looking for betting action. Martin rarely lost in those head-to-head matches. But following the code of the day, he was never given an opportunity to play in national competition.By 1939, however, his playing abilities were so well known in black golf circles that he was named the club professional at the newly opened (and segregated) Langston Golf Course in Washington, D.C. Within 18 months of the Langston appointment, world heavyweight champion Joe Louis hired Martin as his personal coach. Martin remained with Louis until 1942, when Louis went into the Army. After the war, Martin played regularly on the black golf circuit until his death in the early 1950s.United Golf Association: The game of golf from its onset in this country has been primarily a “White Only” sport. Blacks were allowed to carry the bags for the white golfers but could not join clubs or compete in professional or amateur tournaments. Many blacks had the desire to compete on a professional basis but because of the institutional barriers of racism, blacks had to hone their skills elsewhere.In 1926, Robert H. Hawkins of Stowe, Massachusetts had a dream of black golfers banding together as an organization to further the game of golf among blacks. He staged his first tournament in 1926 followed by another in 1927. Because of the tournament’s tremendous success, Hawkins organized the United Golf Associations, Inc., in 1928. A national tournament was conducted each year to determine the best male and female golfer in the country.In 1948, then-President, A. D. V. Crosby, established seven districts, Eastern – Mid-Western – Central – Southeastern – Southwestern – New England – Western, under the umbrella of the UGA with the responsibility for promoting golf among blacks in each area of the country.Women were encouraged to participate in the UGA from its inception, but it wasn’t until 1939 that an organization for women sought affiliation with the UGA. That organization was the Chicago Women’s Golf Club, which was organized by Mrs. Anna Robinson.