by Chris Hybl
The World Golf Hall of Fame’s new exhibit “Honoring a Legacy: A Tribute to African Americans in Golf” highlights the lives of those who have championed many of The First Tee’s core principles, including the belief that golf is a game for everyone.
The World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum, located next to The First Tee home office in St. Augustine, Fla., officially opened their latest addition with a ceremony including Hall of Fame member Charlie Sifford and LPGA pioneer Renee Powell, along with PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem.
Developed with the support of the PGA of America, the PGA TOUR and the USGA, this permanent exhibition contains rare photographs, audio, video and memorabilia to highlight the long, rich history of African-Americans in golf starting with pioneers from the late 1800s through today’s game.
“I’m happy that golf fans from around the world can come to the Hall of Fame and learn about the amazing stories of African-Americans in golf,” said Sifford, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. “It is gratifying to see so many within the golf industry come together with the Hall of Fame to make this exhibition a reality.”
Sifford’s PGA Player Card from 1960, the document that officially broke golf’s color barrier, will be one of many items on display, along with others from 1985 THE PLAYERS Championship winner Calvin Peete, boxing legend Joe Louis (father of The First Tee CEO Joe Louis Barrow, Jr.) and tennis great Althea Gibson. Tablet technology featuring profiles of prominent African-Americans in golf along with an interactive, touch-screen video display make this one of the Hall of Fame’s most advanced exhibits. The centerpiece of the exhibit is an original sculpture, “The DNA of the Golf Swing,” designed by renowned sculptor Mario Chiodo and features 13 African-American golf legends.
Chiodo, renowned for his compelling sculptures based on history and social justice, has designed monuments throughout the U.S., including the Harriet Tubman/Thomas Garrett Memorial in Wilmington, Del., the Contrabands Freedman’s Memorial in Alexandria, Va., and “Remember Them: Champions for Humanity” in Oakland, Calif., the largest human rights monument in the Western United States.
Best-selling author Pete McDaniel served as the lead writer on the project. McDaniel is the author of the acclaimed book “Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African Americans in Golf’’ and co-wrote and co-produced the documentary “Uneven Fairways.” He is a member of both the African American Golfers Hall of Fame and National Black Golf Hall of Fame.
“It is an honor to open this unique exhibition, which is both part of the Hall of Fame’s ongoing mission to preserve the history of golf and a celebration of what can be accomplished with force of will and a love of the game,” said Jack Peter, Chief Operating Officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
In the exhibit, the story of African-Americans in golf is told with relation to the timeline of the Civil Rights movement. The same civil liberties that were being fought for across America in courthouses, in restaurants, in shops, in streets, were also being fought for on the golf course by many of the men in this exhibit. Men like John Shippen, the first African-American to compete in a U.S. Open, Joe Louis, the first African-American to play in a PGA sanctioned event, and Lee Elder, the first African-American to play in the Masters Tournament, are among those featured in the exhibit.
Together, these men persevered to help establish racial equality in the United States. And today, their struggle is clearly embedded in the core values of The First Tee which believes that golf is a game for everyone, regardless of race, gender or age.
“We should never lose sight of these poignant stories of overcoming significant challenges to make a lasting impact on golf,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “And the PGA TOUR is proud to collaborate with the other golf organizations to help tell this important story.”
For more information, including photos, about the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum and “Honoring the Legacy: A Tribute to African-Americans in Golf,” visit WorldGolfHallofFame.org.
Find out more about the timeline of African-American achievements in golf.