Black History Month in Sports

Black History Month in Sports

by Erin Grier

Black History month in sports is a time that we dedicate to the important achievements that African Americans have contributed to our history as a country. Without these, many barriers would not have been broken down or would still be in place today. We will be listing a couple of significant icons in the golf realm that are responsible for making waves and opportunities for people of color today.

Tiger Woods

Arguably the greatest of all time (GOAT) was born on December 30, 1975 and has over 106 world wide wins and 15 majors. He has 82 PGA Tour wins which is tied with Sam Snead for the most PGA wins held by an individual player ever. Tiger became the first golfer to hold all four major championships at the same time (Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and British Open). He had a dominating stretch where he was number one for the longest time. Your betting odds were better if you picked him over the entire field of players, it was just that ridiculous! He was the first African American and youngest to win in the manner of which he did. His influence was felt immediately. His face made millions of people and children across the nation want to pick up the sticks and learn the game of golf. The excitement he brought to the sport, his mentality to hunt down people in the lead was unmatched (Jordanesque), and his style of play can be felt today.

Jim Thorpe 

He is considered black royalty. Born on February 1, 1949, was an American professional golfer. Thorpe turned pro in 1972. Over his career he racked over 13 Champions Tour wins and 3 PGA Tour wins. In addition, he has a total 19 professional wins and even beat big names like Jack Nicklaus in the Greater Milwaukee Open. He was an absolute force to be reckoned with. In 1985, he finished fourth on the PGA Tour money list. He currently is strongly involved with philanthropic endeavors such as The First Tee, Boys and Girls Club, and even the Urban League. He now hosts the Jim Thorpe Invitational which is an annual event that brings the nations top minority golfers to compete and gives them opportunities to advance their professional ambitions and goals.

Althea Gibson 

Was one of the greatest athletes ever to live. She not only was a professional in the golf world but most known for her trailblazing in the Tennis World as well. She was the first African American to join the LPGA Tour in 1963 after the PGA eliminated the “Caucasian Only” clause . She was a two time Wimbledon and two time U.S. Open Champion. She was the first African American to be ranked No.1 and win either one. Shirley Spoke, the founder of the LPGA said, “She was recognized for tennis, not for golf. But she was trying to be an athlete in another sport after being at the top of her sport. And she chose golf.” Over the span of 14 years, Althea made 171 LPGA Tour starts. It was a huge milestone for women and even introduced the way for greats such as Renee Powell.

Renee Powell 

Was one of the most resilient and persevering athletes in our time. During the time of racial segregation and adversity, her father built a golf course so that Renee and other people that looked like her could play on. As a teenager she had won over 30 tournaments. In 1967, she became the second African American LPGA Tour player to compete after Althea Gibson. She competed in over 250 tournaments and won the 1973 Kelley Springfield Open in Australia. Renee Powell is the Head Golf Professional at Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio.

Charlie Sifford 

Charlie Sifford was often referred to as the Jackie Robinson of golf. He was the first African American to earn a PGA Card and the first African American to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame! He was a trailblazer that allowed individuals such as Tiger Woods to get into the PGA realm. He served in the Army’s 24th Infantry, and later met with Jackie Robinson and told him his vision about following in his footsteps and breaking the color barrier in golf. He won the Long Beach Open,  the Los Angeles Open, and the Hartford Open Invitational (which he was the first by an African American at a PGA event). In his later years he was inducted in the World of Golf Hall of Fame and the first African American of be honored there.

Lee Elder

Elder was the first African American to play for the Masters Golf Tournament in August, Georgia.   He began his career as a caddie. As he started to play professionally, he won 4 Negro National Open Championships. Also in one stint, he won 18 out of the 22 tournaments he played in. In 1971, Elder was the first black golfer to play in the South African PGA Tournament which was the first integrated tournament held there since the apartheid rulings in 1948. In 1975, he made history participating in the 1975 Masters Tournament. This was probably the most prestigious moment in golf. Elder went on to get invited to the Masters a total of 5 times and won 12 tournaments on the PGA and Senior Tour. His invitation to the Masters in 1975, however, proved that African Americans could compete at the highest levels of golf.

Thanks for tuning in for this blog post about black history month in sports. We wanted to highlight those that have brought huge opportunities and change in the golf realm and have made it it what it is today. Stay tuned to ETees Golf Blogs for more!

Black History Month in Sports

by Erin Grier



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