Sifford Was a True Pioneer

The first African-American Golfer in the World Golf Hall of Fame passes away at 92

More than 200 mourners said goodbye to Charlie Sifford yesterday in Cleveland.

That's just a fraction of the number of people he inspired with his dignity.

The first African-American to enter the World Golf Hall of Fame, Sifford died last week at the age of 92, just three months after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Born in 1922 in North Carolina, Sifford caddied as a youth and turned pro at age 17, playing on the United Golf Association Tour, golf's version of the Negro Leagues. He won six Negro National Open titles before making his PGA Tour debut in 1960. He was 38.

Jackie Robinson, to whom Sifford drew comparisons, was 10 years younger when he first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Still in his prime, Robinson became a Hall of Fame player.

Unlike Robinson, however, Sifford did not have the support of teammates. He endured alone all of the epithets, indignities and abuse on the PGA Tour, which until 1961 had a “Caucasians only” clause.

He was barred from clubhouses at courses that were not integrated, heard slurs from hecklers who would kick his golf balls into the rough. His car was his locker room and his grillroom.

Sifford won 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 Los Angeles Open. Neither got him an invitation to the Masters. Wonder why?

He broke down a number of times during his World Golf Hall of Fame induction speech, but nobody could break his spirit.

For more coverage of Charlie Sifford's life, click here.


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Colorado AvidGolfer is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via www.coloradoavidgolfer.comJon Rizzi is the founding editor and co-owner of this regional golf-related media company producing magazines, web content, tournaments, events and the Golf Passport.