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Charlie Sifford
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Charlie Sifford receives his medal Monday from President Barack Obama.

WASHINGTON –- Dr. Charles L. “Charlie” Sifford, a former caddie who cleared a forest of obstacles a half-century earlier to carve his rightful place in golf, had the best seat in the East Room of the White House Monday afternoon.

Wearing a new black suit and a big smile, Sifford sat just a few feet from President Barack Obama, who served as master of ceremonies. The President praised 18 uncommon Americans as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

VIDEO: Sifford honored | Sifford receives Medal of Freedom | Tiger: Sifford a trailblazer | Photos

When his name was called, the 92-year-old Sifford, a PGA Life Member, waited for the President to approach him. President Obama gathered a blue ribbon bearing a golden star and draped it around Sifford’s neck.

The humble man who began playing golf at age 13, and later endured a gauntlet of abuse, now had membership privileges in one of the most select “clubs” in the country.

When asked how earning this medal compared to playing for a major, Sifford clutched the ribbon and the golden star and said, "No major compares to this. Today was exciting. Great people to be around you. I loved it."

Sifford joined a glittering roster of Medal of Freedom recipients that included Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep, Emmy Award-winning journalist Tom Brokaw, Ethel Kennedy, actress-activist Marlo Thomas and singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder.

“This felt different than anything else,” said Sifford, referring to his 2004 induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame and a 2006 honorary doctorate from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. “They say what I did helped African-Americans, but it went further.”

MORE SIFFORD: Check out our #ThanksCharlieSifford page | Sifford photo gallery

Former U.S. Congressman Mel Watt, a distant relative of Sifford, called the honor “bigger than sport.”

“The Medal of Freedom takes in the contributions to America and how someone lives out the ideals in the Constitution for the betterment of others,” said Watt, the Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. “Charlie has opened up avenues for aspiring generations of Americans.”

Sifford was the first person of color to compete in PGA-sanctioned events following the demise in 1961 of the “Caucasian-only” PGA of America membership clause.

The national recognition on behalf of Sifford was spearheaded by the PGA of America and was met with wide-ranging support from all of golf’s national governing bodies, national diversity-focused organizations, government officials and sports figures. Among those lending their support to the effort were the PGA TOUR, United States Golf Association, World Golf Foundation, 64 Members of Congress and notable athletes that included Jim Brown, Alonzo Mourning, Bill Russell and Tiger Woods.

In addition, to help celebrate this special recognition, the PGA of America has developed a PSA thanking Sifford for teeing up the game for future generations and is encouraging others to do so at www.pga.com/thanksCharlieSifford.

THANK YOU CHARLIE: Watch as the PGA of America honors Dr. Sifford

“I think Charlie Sifford’s name is going to be put into a whole other area of national and global recognition,” said Sheila Johnson, golf entrepreneur and USGA Executive Committee member. “I hope that there will be more stories on Charlie. We’re still fighting the fight in golf. As a USGA officer, I also understand the struggles that he’s been through. I will tell you that the barriers are still there. It’s more important now, with more than 130 courses closing down over the past year. If golf wants to continue to grow, we’ve got to start opening up and become more inclusive of people of all races and nationalities.”

Charles Sifford Jr., a retired postal carrier from Shaker Heights, Ohio, was one of four Sifford family members attending the ceremony. He said his father’s preparations to attend the ceremony included adjusting a schedule of undergoing kidney dialysis three times a week.

“We’ve heard it many times about dad being the Jackie Robinson of golf,” said Charles Jr. “Jackie had a strong owner (Branch Rickey) behind him, along with teammates and he played in a stadium with separation from the fans. Dad was out on his own playing professional golf. There was no security. Who was going to step up for him?”

Gallery ropes were a rarity in the early years of the PGA Tour. PGA/LPGA Professional Renee Powell of East Canton, Ohio, the second African-American woman golfer on the LPGA Tour, recalled the risks that she took in the 1960s during the height of the civil rights era.

“It was common for many tournaments to allow the fans to stroll up the fairway behind the players,” says Powell, the PGA Head Professional at Clearview Golf Club. “If Charlie Sifford had not stayed with it and been persistent, it (open access to African Americans in professional golf) would have taken much longer. Charlie helped to make the climate better for all, including me.”

Richard “Jelly” Hansberry, 76, of Washington, D.C., caddied for Sifford at a pro-am in the 1960s and later became a 28-year caddie for Champions Tour veteran Jim Thorpe.

“This is a great honor for him [Charlie] and I think a long time coming for what he did,” said Hansberry. “It was as tough on us caddies as it was for Charlie in many ways. They stopped Charlie at the gate before he could come in to play. As a caddie, we had to wait in the clubhouse until someone came for us.”

Kim Dumpson, executive vice president of public relations for the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore (UMES), monitors the school’s PGA Golf Management University Program. UMES, the only Historically Black College that offers the program, hosted a reception Monday night honoring Sifford.

“On our campus we are pursuing a dream of becoming PGA Professionals,” said Dumpson. “We have 25 African-American students who are poised to become members of the PGA. We have an obligation to let our students know of the impact of Charlie Sifford.”

November 24, 2014 - 2:07pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Bryan Brothers
YouTube
In their latest golf trick-shot video, the Bryan Brothers bring in the rest of their family for a little help.

We can always count on Wesley and George Bryan (the Bryan Bros.) for a great golf trick shot video. This week's effort is a fun one. With Thanksgiving just three days away, the Bryan's decided to put together a special family edition, featuring mom, dad and sister, "M.C."

The family members aren't just in the video -- they're active participants.

Check it out:

Great stuff all around. We loved mom's set-up with the putt up the ramp -- especially after she claimed she had no skills.

Our favorite part of the video, however, had nothing to do with the shots. Instead, it was dad's response when Wesley asked, "So when's the last time you felt these kind of nerves? Being a set-up man is nerve-racking."

Dad's response?

"Yeah... The 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah."

That's right: George and Wesley Bryan's father -- George Bryan III -- played in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, where Tiger Woods edged out Sergio Garcia in the end.

The elder George Bryan is a PGA Professional and finished in a tie for eighth in the 1999 PGA Professional National Championship at Whistling Straits to earn a berth in the 1999 PGA Championship field.

Bryan ultimately missed the cut at Medinah, but not many people can say they've played in a major.

November 24, 2014 - 9:37am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Odell Beckham, Justin Rose
YouTube
Hours before New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham made arguably the greatest catch in NFL history, Justin Rose pulled off arguably the greatest up and down birdie of the year in golf.

The NFL saw one of its greatest catches ever Sunday night when New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham laid out for an unbelievable one-handed touchdown snag.

Here's that catch in case you missed it:

Earlier in the day, Justin Rose tallied what has to be considered at least a shot of the year candidate in golf.
Rose, playing in the final round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, found himself in a precarious position on the par-4 15th hole after a wayward tee shot -- he was in the trees.

Not the ideal tee shot for a guy in the hunt down the stretch.

But, as you'll see in the video below, Rose pulled off a Seve Ballesteros/Houdini-like escape to make one of the most unlikely birdies these eyes have ever seen.

How about that? Incredible!

That would be the second of three consecutive birdies for Rose, who finished in a tie for second with Rory McIlroy and Victor Dubuisson two strokes behind winner Henrik Stenson. So, not a bad week for European Ryder Cuppers.

Of course, Dubuisson knows a thing -- or two -- about remarkable recovery shots as we saw earlier this year in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Remember these two?

 

November 23, 2014 - 9:56am
mark.aumann's picture
Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy watches his errant tee shot Sunday at the 18th hole.

For the rest of us, this is just a matter of luck. But for the world's No. 1 player, it's quite posssible Rory McIlroy meant for this to happen.

Watch McIlroy's errant tee shot -- heading right for the water hazard -- ricochet off a rock and land in the middle of the opposite fairway Sunday on the final hole of the DP World Golf Championship:

 

 

 

Now that takes skill. McIlroy wound up making par but lost the tournament by one stroke to Henrik Stenson. No worries, since McIlroy had already clinched the championship one week ago.

 

November 22, 2014 - 2:32pm
Posted by:
Doug Ferguson
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Chris Como
Golf.com
Chris Como has been tabbed to become Tiger Woods' newest swing consultant.

NAPLES, Fla. -- Tiger Woods has hired a swing consultant as he prepares to return to competition.

Woods announced Saturday on Twitter that Dallas-based Chris Como, a specialist in biomechanics of the golf swing, will be working and consulting with him. Woods did not identify Como as his swing coach.

"Happy to have Chris Como consulting and working with me on my swing. I'm excited to be back competing," Woods said.

He is to return Dec. 4-7 at his Hero World Challenge, an 18-man field of top 50 players at Isleworth.

Not long after the tweet, Como's website was unavailable because it exceeded its bandwidth. He works at Gleneagles Country Club outside Dallas and was listed among the best young teachers by Golf Digest magazine last year.

The magazine said on its website that Como is completing a master's degree in biomechanics at Texas Woman's University. He is studying under Kwon Young-Hoo, an expert on how sports movements impact the body.

Woods said good friend Notah Begay introduced him to Como this summer.

"Subsequently, we had several good conservations about the golf swing," Woods said in a statement. "I've worked with him about a month since I started practicing. Chris will consult and work with me during the year."

Woods already has had three swing coaches and four swings during a career that already has brought him 14 majors among his 79 PGA Tour titles. He most recently worked with Sean Foley, whom he dismissed in August after three years and no majors. Woods last won a major in 2008 at the U.S. Open.

This is the first time in his career he failed to register a top-10 finish.

Woods missed most of the year with back issues. He had surgery on his back a week before the Masters, forcing him to sit out three months to recover. He last played in the PGA Championship, where he missed the cut, and then said he would take more time off to get stronger.

Como also works with Aaron Baddeley, Trevor Immelman and Jamie Lovemark.

Arnold Palmer
Montana Pritchard
World Golf Hall of Fame member and PGA member, Arnold Palmer, accepts the Deacon Palmer Award during the General Session of the 98th PGA Annual Meeting at The JW Marriott in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, on Saturday, November 22, 2014.

What an emotional entrance for Arnold Palmer at the 98th PGA Annual Meeting in Indanapolis Saturday.

The Hall of Famer and PGA member was here to accept the inaugural Deacon Palmer Award, bestowed posthumously upon Arnold's father and only coach. The award was accepted by Arnold Palmer.

But it was Arnold Palmer's entrance that created a stir. He was welcomed with a long standing ovation from this large crowd of PGA Professionals and PGA of America employees. Cell phones were raised to capture the unique moment, and the moment created more than a few misty eyes. The entrance was touching, and clearly humbled Arnold Palmer, a full two minutes of appreciation as Interim PGA President Derek Sprague escroted the legend to the stage for a fireside chat with Golf Channel's David Marr III.

 

 

 

Arnold Palmer, 85, described his youth and upbringing in the household led by a stern Deacon Palmer, a man who taught him his golf grip at a young age in his first lesson. Arnold grabbed the club, Deacon set the grip. "Now don't ever change it," Deacon Palmer told his son.

"Everything in my life, he taught me," said Arnold Palmer, both moved by his father's award and happy to have such an engaged forum to tell Deacon's story. Arnold Palmer also told the story of when his father learned Arnold wanted to play golf on tour. Deacon Palmer wasn't a fan of the idea.

Deacon Palmer looked over at the tractor, and said, "When you can't play, you can still drive that tractor."

Then, Arnold smiled, and admitted, "Well, luckily I never had to drive that tractor."

The Deacon Palmer Award bestows special recognition upon a PGA Professional who personally displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership in the effort to overcome a major obstacle in his/her life.

“I am most appreciative that the PGA has chosen to honor my father with this award,” Arnold Palmer said in a PGA of America release about the award.

After being stricken with polio as a child, Deacon Palmer developed a strong upper body. He walked with a limp, but that did not hinder his love and passion for golf. He loved to play with club members and developed his own strong and sturdy golf swing.

Deacon Palmer worked on the construction of Latrobe (Pennsylvania) Country Club as a teenager in 1920. He became grounds superintendent in 1926 and was named golf professional in 1932. Deacon Palmer was elected to PGA membership in 1946. He died in 1976 at age 71.

“Deacon Palmer was more than the father of a son who ascended to the pinnacle of golf,” said PGA of America Interim President Derek Sprague. “He became a shining example of the golf profession. In the spirit of this humble man from Western Pennsylvania, the PGA of America is extremely proud to establish the Deacon Palmer Award and to have Arnold Palmer accept on behalf of his late father.”