Where Charlie Sifford stands among golfers who broke down barriers

News & Tour

A timeline of ethnic minority change.

The golfing world is mourning the loss of Charlie Sifford, a man called “grandfather” by Tiger Woods.

Sifford, 92 when he died on Tuesday evening, was a pioneer in the golfing world, helping the sport take major strides towards racial equality.

He was the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour of America, paving the way for Tiger Woods and other golfers from ethnic minorities. 

Yet the professional ranks remain white-dominated – the journey is clearly far from complete.
“Terrible loss for golf and me personally. My grandfather is gone and we all lost a brave, decent and honorable man. I miss you Charlie.” @TigerWoods A timeline of ethnic minority golf

1896 John Shippen plays in the second US Open at Shinnecock Hills

1926 Robert Hawkins stages United Golf Association, a tour for players excluded from PGA events

1943 PGA of America inserts “Caucasians only from North and South America” clause into its rules

1946 WWII veteran Bill Powell denied play on public courses. Builds his own course in response – Clearview in Ohio

Powell: “Golf is a part of society and I wanted to be included”

1948 Golfers Theodore Rhodes, Bill Spiller and Madison Gunther sue PGA for civil rights violation through Caucasian clause.

1961 PGA Tour drops its “Caucasian-only” exemption

1964 Pete Brown is the first black player to win an event on the PGA Tour at the Waco Turner Open

1975 The Masters allows black players to compete

Augusta National co-founder Clifford Roberts: “As long as I’m alive, golfers will be white and caddies will be black”

1979 South Africa banned from golf World Cup by host nation Greece in midst of apartheid

1990 Augusta National welcomes its first black member

1997 Tiger Woods becomes World Number One

2004 Charlie Sifford inducted into World Golf Hall of Fame

Sifford: “Man I’m in the Hall of Fame. Don’t forget that now. I’m in the World Hall of Fame with all the players. That little old golf I played was all right wasn’t it?”

2006 Peter Dawson of the R&A acknowledges the continuing ethnic disparity in golf, despite the success of role models such as Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh

“Clearly we’re not seeing enough ethnic minority golfers. This is a big challenge for golf.”

2014 Just 2% of England’s golfers are from ethnic minorities.

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