Charlie Sifford: Golf’s first black pro paving the way for Tiger Woods

But Sifford didn’t give up.

In breaking through the “white only” clause of golf, Sifford helped open the doors of other black golfers, including Woods, the most famous black golfer in history.

And that’s what Woods realized, saying in 2015 after Sifford’s death that he might not have been a professional golfer himself without Sifford.

“He’s like a grandfather I’ve never seen before,” Woods said. Said The day after Sifford’s death after a practice round prior to the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. “It was a long night and I’m sure it will take a few days. He fought, and what he did was the courage to stick to it and play here.

“I probably wouldn’t have been here (without Siford). My dad wouldn’t have got the game. Who knows if the clause still exists? But he did it Defeated. “

Sifford was the first black player to succeed in golf, but someone was leaning near him.

Robinson, who broke the color barrier as a Major League Baseball player in 1947, was a friend of Sifford and, from his own experience, advised golfers before embarking on a journey to join the tour.

“Jackie told him he would have to face a lot, because that would be difficult for him and for the people behind him,” recalls Charles Sifford, Charlie’s son. I am.

“So he kept his stiff upper lip, biting his tongue, and if he messed up that it would be even harder for the next man to come, he dealt with what was presented to him.”

Sifford is studying shots of the FHP Health Classic at the Ojai In Country Club in Ojai, California.

Need to move

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1922, Sifford began playing golf through the only path available to young black children, caddies.

But he wanted to play the game-in Year In the case of 13, he was able to shoot an 18-hole parround-and couldn’t carry someone else’s bag.

But for him, who grew up in an era of separation, it was not easy to get the opportunity to gain experience on the course.

He eventually began playing professionally in 1948, but Sifford decided to play because of the so-called “white only” clause that prevented black players from playing with white players. Had to do Black only Tournament.

By the time Sifford was in his thirties, the separation method was gradually abandoned, but golf slowed down with the times.

“In 1959, you still had a” white only “clause. Golf was played in these private clubs and they were able to continue to enforce the separation rules, so it was easy to see how it would last, “Nancy Charlie-author” Charlie is his Take a Shot: How Charlie Sifford Breaks the Color Barrier in Golf “-told CNN Sports.

Sifford practices in range.

“So how are you going to play if you can’t step into these private clubs?”

Sifford’s journey to play on the PGA Tour was not a momentary decision. It was what he worked to achieve over the years.

The first attempt to join the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) Tour in 1952 was When With vitriol and racial pressure.

At the Phoenix Open, Sifford and his all-black Foursome (including heavyweight boxer Joe Louis) found excrement in the cup in the first hole and had to wait nearly an hour for it to be replaced. did.

Unable to demonstrate his abilities with all the best players, Sifford took his talents elsewhere-with great success.

He won the United Golf Association’s National Negro Open six times, winning consecutive victories from 1952 to 1956.

But his dream was to be the best in business on the biggest stages of golf. That meant making some sacrifices, as his son Charles remembers.

“When I was about 10 years old, we lived in Philadelphia and realized that my dad couldn’t really play in many tournaments,” he told CNN Sports. “I didn’t play golf so much on the East Coast, so I moved to the West Coast at the age of 10. He said he needed to move west to succeed or to have a chance to succeed. is. “”

Sifford was awarded the North-South Negro Golf Tournament Trophy by nightclub celebrity Nat & quot; King & quot ;. call.


Baseball star Robinson was an inspirational figure and an example of what Sifford wanted to achieve in golf. However, Sifford also realized that he needed some legal assistance.

After moving to the West Coast of the United States, Sifford became friends with the Attorney General of California, Stanley Mosk.

The mosque was Jewish and experienced direct discrimination. He played golf at the Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles. It allowed members from the Jewish community when other clubs did not allow them access.

Award-winning actor Billy Crystal, his Eulogy I remembered an incident that emphasized the private policy of golf for Muhammad Ali at the funeral of the great boxer in 2016.

Ali invited his best friend Crystal to run on the golf course, unaware that the club did not allow Jewish members.

“(Ali) was furious.’I’m a black Muslim and they let me run there. My brother, I’m not going to run there again,” Crystal remembers Ali saying. ing.

Billy Crystal and Muhammad Ali of Audemars Piguet held at Christie's Auction House in New York City in 2000.

Sifford’s skills immediately impressed the mosque. And the fact that someone with such abilities couldn’t play on the biggest stage offended him.

So the mosque set out to help Siford in his quest to play on the PGA Tour.

As the Attorney General of California, the mosque was able to bring political upheaval to the battle of Sifford. The mosque then served as Deputy Judge of the California Supreme Court for 37 years. This is the longest tenure in the history of the California Supreme Court.

After years of letters and conversations, Sifford finally won the PGA Tour Player Card in 1960 at the age of 39, making him the first black player to play on the tour.

A year later, under great pressure, the PGA TOUR abolished the “whites only” membership clause.

However, Sifford has consistently been racistly abused by white golfers and spectators.

His son Charles also remembers hearing about the murderous threats sent to his father during those years.

“When he was playing in the South (a region of the United States), he was threatened with several murders,” Charles explained. “People called him into a hotel room and told him they would kill him if he appeared on the golf course.

“He said:” Well, I’m on the golf course, so you’ll just have to do it. “” So he doesn’t disturb him and what he wants to do. And he had that drive in him. The more you tried to stop him, the more he tried to succeed. “

An illustration of Charlie taking a shot, how Charlie Sifford broke the color line in golf.

Wind change

He was late in his thirties when he took the PGA Tour, but despite the hostility he encountered on and off the golf course, Sifford was still able to show that he could compete with the best golfers.

Charnin recalls reading about rooms and hotels that don’t rent clubs and can’t eat with other professionals or use locker rooms because of their skin color.

However, the Greater Hartford Open (now the Travelers Championship) in Connecticut in 1967 proved to be a watershed. “It was the first time the crowd was on his side,” said Charnin.

And that seemed to make a difference as Sifford claimed to win his first PGA Tour at the event and became the first black player to win the PGA Tour.

Sifford will be presented with a $ 20,000 and trophy check after winning the Los Angeles Open.

He was unaware that his father had won, as there was no wall-to-wall television coverage as it is today, but Charles remembers Sifford’s obvious changes after a significant victory.

“I saw it in the newspaper and I was really excited about him because it was my lifelong dream of winning the PGA Tour, and I felt a lot of pressure from him. It looked relaxed. He did it once, and there was always the possibility that he could do it again. “

Sifford became the original member of the PGA Tour Champions, who won the 1969 Los Angeles Open (now Genesis Invitational) and the 1975 National Professional Senior Golf Championship and won the Suntree Classic.

In 2004, he became the first black golfer to be enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Sifford during the Ralph & # 39; Senior Classic Tournament at Rancho Park Golf Course in Los Angeles on October 21, 1994.

Pave the way

President Barack Obama also awarded Siford the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom for “changing the flow of sport and the country he loved.”

Charles admits that Sifford was “extremely disappointed”, but there was no massive influx of black golfers following him, but he is very proud to be the first black player on the PGA Tour. It was what I was thinking.

Charnin says the number of blacks following his golf footsteps wasn’t so high because of the lack of effort and commitment from Sifford.

Then, US President Barack Obama will present the Medal of Freedom to Sifford on November 24, 2014.

“We all have a variety of tools at our disposal,” she explained. “Some of us use words, some use music. Some of us run for public office, others become legal scholars.

“We all enter this world, and our job when we enter this world is to try to make the world a better place. Better, more equal, more fair, kind, more. A loving and more comprehensive place. A man who fought for justice with golf club equipment and knew he wouldn’t see all the consequences of that fight in his lifetime. ..

“But he used the golf club for fairness and equality, making the world a better place for others, and he knocked down this door, so he made it a place. So I could see the promised land from where he was. A place where others behind him can go to the golf course to realize their dreams. “

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