PGA.com and The PGA of America honor African-American golf pioneers
Editor's Note: To commemorate Black History Month 2015, PGA.com and The PGA of America have put together this special section spotlighting some of golf's African-American heroes, focusing on those with a close connection to The PGA. Please check back frequently as we will add to this section throughout Black History Month.
PROFILE: ALTHEA GIBSON, BREAKING BARRIERS ON THE COURT AND COURSE
Althea Gibson was a natural athlete who attempted many sports without any instruction and yet excelled. Born the daughter of a South Carolina sharecropper -- and a generation behind legendary Babe Zaharias -- Gibson became one of the most gifted African-American woman athletes in history.
PROFILE: DEWEY BROWN
Dewey Brown was the first known African-American member of the Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA). Brown was born in 1898, in North Carolina, and later moved to New Jersey as a young boy. By the age of eight he was a caddy at the Madison Golf Course. His love and passion for golf would only grow from there. On September 1st, 1928, he became a member of the PGA while working at the Shawnee Country Club. He was also a renowned golf club maker and golf teacher during the 1920s and 1930s, and crafted golf clubs for a number of the nation’s leading professionals and statesmen. Some of the notable people he made clubs for were: President Warren G. Harding, Vice President Charles Davis, and Charles "Chick" Evans. From 1947, until he passed, Brown owned and operated the Cedar River House and Golf Club at Indian Lake, New York.
In 1934, the PGA terminated Brown's membership when they allegedly discovered that he was African American. It wasn't until the 1960's, 30 years after being dropped without explanation, Brown was "re-elected to a class 'A' membership" in the PGA. (Forbidden Fairways, 1998)
PROFILE: JIM DENT, FROM CADDIE TO CHAMPION
Jim Dent’s passion for the game has taken him from a boyhood in Augusta’s caddie yards to the pinnacle of a great peak, made up of players who helped pave the way for others. If Dent’s life today seems very good, it’s because he earned it in the most extraordinary way.
PROFILE: JOE LOUIS, FIGHTER FOR DIVERSITY IN GOLF
Joe Louis Barrow, one of the greatest boxing champions in history, may have retired from the ring in 1951, but he kept fighting – for diversity in golf, a game which he had fallen in love with decades earlier.
PROFILE: JOHN SHIPPEN JR., THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN GOLF PROFESSIONAL
John Shippen Jr. was introduced to golf as a teenager at Shinnecock Hills, and became the first African-American to play in the U.S. Open in 1896. During a career that stretched until 1964, he built clubs, worked on maintenance crews, gave lessons and served as a head golf professional.
Bill Spiller Jr., the son of pioneering player Bill Spiller and a member of The PGA of America's Inclusion Committee, visited PGA Headqaurters on Feb. 10, 2012, to celebrate Black History Month. Spiller participated in a special program detailing his father's historic impact on golf and discussed his current efforts to grow the game by encouraging the participation of people from all walks of life.
On Feb. 17, 2011, historian and professor Dr. Jeffrey Sammons visited PGA headquarters and the PGA Museum of Golf to commemorate Black History Month. At PGA HQ, Sammons presented an in-depth look at the life and impact of Jimmie DeVoe, one of the first African-Americans to gain PGA membership, a trailblazing player and a noted instructor to many celebrities and other prominent amateurs.
MORE: Sammons discusses pioneer DeVoe as PGA marks Black History Month
The famed Innisbrook Resort near Tampa is well-known for four championship courses, a PGA Tour event and its elite service to guests. But it's also gaining recognition for changing the way the sport is viewed in the African-American community.
From John Shippen breaking barriers at the 1896 U.S. Open to Tiger Woods shattering virtually every PGA Tour record of consequence, African-Americans have played a significant role in the development of golf down through the years. Here is a timeline of their noteworthy achievements on and off the course, and a photo gallery of prominent players.
GALLERY: Trailblazing African-American golfers
In November of 2009, The PGA of America bestowed honorary membership on John Shippen, Bill Spiller and Ted Rhodes, three great trailblazers whose efforts ultimately led to the opening of professional golf up to all players. Boxing great Joe Louis received honorary membership at the same time.
GALLERY: African-American pioneers photo gallery
The PGA of America and the U.S. Golf Assiciation have teamed up to create a centralized repository for artifacts and documents related to the history of African-Americans in golf. The collection is housed at the USGA Museum in New Jersey, and traveling exhibits also have been created.
Golf Digest Senior Writer Pete McDaniel, the author of "Uneven Lies: The Heroic Stories of African-Americans in Golf," visited PGA of America Headquarters in 2010 for an in-depth discussion of the lives of African-American golf pioneers John Shippen, Ted Rhodes and Bill Spiller as part of Black History Month.
GALLERY: McDaniel's visit to PGA Headquarters
Several African-American PGA Professionals decided to combine their love of golf with their support of Black History Month 2013 by holding a special golf clinic in Lake Worth, Fla., complete with lessons, celebrities and a huge green gorilla. Or is that a dinosaur?
SEE: William Powell photo gallery
READ: Golf pioneer and course builder Powell passes away at 93
READ: Powell named 2009 PGA Distinguished Service Award winner
READ: Ohio Course Owners honor Powell as Person of the Year
READ: Northern Ohio PGA Hall of Fame inducts pioneer Powell
Renee Powell, the daughter of 2009 PGA Distinguished Service Award winner William Powell, is a pioneer in her own right. A member of both The PGA of America and the LPGA, and named the 2003 First Lady of Golf, Powell has dedicated her career to building diversity in the game. She appeared on "Good Morning America" and at a New Jersey Nets game to commemorate 2010 Black History Month.
WATCH: Powell on "Good Morning America"
SEE: Renee Powell photo gallery
READ: Powell receives honorary degree from University of St. Andrews
READ: Powell named recipient of 2003 PGA First Lady of Golf Award
READ: Powell commemorates father at New Jersey Nets game