Tiger Woods may be the most famous, but he’s not the first…
When most people think of African Americans and golf they immediately think of Tiger Woods. What these people may not know is that far before Tiger, and in some cases after, there have been accomplished African American golfers that continue to pave the way for blacks to thrive in the golfing industry. BlackEnterprise.com would be remiss to not expose the extensive history of blacks in golfing as a means to not only educate, but to inspire.
Check the following pages to discover these trailblazing golfers. Feel free to add to this list via Black Enterprise social media, @BlackEnterprise, so that the learning may continue. If you are as inspired as BlackEnterprise.com imagines you will be, be sure to nurture your golf-life at the 2015 Black Enterprise Golf & Tennis Challenge at the PGA National Resort & Spa, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, this Labor Day Weekend, September 3 thru 6.
1. Charlie Sifford
Not only was Charlie Sifford the first African American to play on the PGA Tour, but he also won the Greater Hartford Open in 1967 and the Los Angeles Open in 1969. He went on to win the United Golf Association’s National Negro Open six times, and the PGA Seniors’ Championship in 1975. Tiger Woods has acknowledged that Sifford paved the way for his career.
2. Lee Elder
Lee Elder is best remembered for becoming the first African-American to play in the Masters Tournament in 1975. In 1979 he became the first African American to qualify for play in the Ryder Cup. In 1984 at the age of 50, Elder joined the Senior PGA Tour.
3. Calvin Peete
Before there was a Tiger, Calvin Peete was the most successful African-American to have played on the PGA Tour, with 12 wins. Peete was the leader in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour for 10 straight years, 1981–90, and was inducted into the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
4. Althea Gibson
In 1964 Althea Gibson became the first African-American woman to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour. Gibson was one of the LPGA’s top 50 money winners for five years and broke course records during individual rounds in several tournaments, Gibson’s highest ranking was 27th in 1966, and her best tournament finish was a tie for second after a three-way playoff at the 1970 Len Immke Buick Open.
5. Renee Powell
Renee Powell was the second African-American woman ever to play on the LPGA Tour. Powell competed in more than 250 professional golf tournaments and won the Kelly Springfield Open in Brisbane, Australia. She became one of the first female members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews inn February 2015. Powell is currently head professional at her family’s Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio.
6. Ted Rhodes
In 1948, Ted Rhodes played in the U.S. Open at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, California and became recognized as the first African-American professional golfer. Rhodes played mostly in United Golf Association sanctioned tournaments during his career, winning about 150 times. In the 1960s Rhodes mentored several black PGA players including Lee Elder and Charlie Sifford. In 1998, posthumous, Rhodes was inducted into the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame.
7. Pete Brown
Pete Brown is the first African American to win a PGA Tour event. Brown played on the PGA Tour for 17 years and posted a second tour win at the 1970 Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational. Brown’s best finishes were a pair of T-6s in 1985 at the Senior PGA Tour Roundup and the MONY Syracuse Senior Classic.
8. Cheyenne Woods
Cheyenne Woods is the niece of Tiger Woods. In April 2011, Woods won the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship. In 2012, Woods turned professional after graduating from Wake Forest. She qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open by finishing as co-medalist at her qualifier and made her professional debut at the 2012 LPGA Championship. Woods had her first professional win on the SunCoast Ladies Series in late August 2012. She is the sixth African-American to play on the LPGA Tour.
9. Charles Owen
Charles Owens became a professional golfer in 1967 and joined the PGA Tour in 1970. During his seven years on the Tour, Owens won the 1971 Kemper Asheville Open, a “satellite” PGA Tour event. In 1987 he won the Ben Hogan Award and was inducted into the African American Golfers Hall of Fame in 2007.
10. Bill Spiller
Bill Spiller didn’t take up the sport of golf until he was about 30. Spiller started competing and winning blacks-only amateur golf tournaments during the 1940s. Spiller spent most of his professional career combating racial segregation and inequalities with the PGA in golf.
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