Golf Legend Charlie Sifford Passes Away at Age 92

Picture courtesy of Getty Images

Picture courtesy of Getty Images


According to ABC 5 in Cleveland, On Feburary 3rd, 2015, golf legend Charlie Sifford has passed away at the age of 92. Charlie was highly recognized for breaking the color barrier in this sport we love very much.


Charlie’s beginnings in golf began as a caddie at age 13 and eventually worked his way into playing the game. He began playing on black only golf tours and started working with musician Billy Eckstein as his personal golf coach.


Under legendary boxer and great golf enthusiast, Joe Louis, Charlie was able to compete in his first PGA Tour tournament at the 1952 Phoenix Open. He then went on to win the 1957 Long Beach Open, this before joining the Tour officially.


Finally, he made it to the Tour in 1961 and overcame all odds by winning two tournaments. In just six years, he won the Greater Hartford Open Invitational in 1967. Just two years later, he won the Los Angeles Open at the Rancho Park Golf Course (Now the Northern Trust Open at Riviera).


He then went on to have a terrific career by winning 22 professional wins globally. This included a major championship at the 1975 PGA Seniors’ Championship.


His amazing resume of accolades include:


The Old Tom Morris Award from the GCSAA


An honorary degree from the University of St. Andrews as a Doctor of Laws


The Northern Trust Open (L.A. Open when Charlie won it) created a diversity exemption in 2009 in honor of Charlie. 


The well designed Revolution Park Golf Course was renamed to Dr. Charles L. Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park in honor of the legend. 


– Induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004


– And likely, his greatest achievement, receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Obama just back in November. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are the only other golfers to get such a high honor. 


It’s amazing. You and I were just talking about Charlie getting the Medal of Freedom award just a short few months ago. We were so happy he got the award and it makes us happy to see that he was around to get into the hall of fame and get the Medal of Freedom.


Charlie opened the door for golfers of all race to come play this great game. He did it with passion and he never let anything get in his way.


Sometimes we don people as legends, sometimes heroes. Well, Charlie was both a legend and a hero and he’ll never be forgotten for the sacrifices he made to make our little sport, a better sport to play, watch and talk about, that much better.


We wouldn’t have ever seen players like Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Nancy Lopez, Lee Trevino, Chi Chi Rodriguez, or Calvin Peete, if it weren’t for the wall Charlie Sifford demolished to get to the door of freedom.


Personally, as a minority myself, I don’t think I’d ever be writing about golf if it weren’t for Mr.Sifford.


Thank you Charlie for everything you did and we already dearly miss you sir. You opened the door for all of us and showed us the light.


May you play some of the finest golf courses in the sky. You deserve it.


Rest in Peace Mr. Sifford.


Here’s a terrific video of the story courtesy of ABC 5 Cleveland:







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Golf legend, Charlie Sifford to receive Medal of Freedom



Golf legend Charlie Sifford will receive a high honor from the White House. Charlie will receive the Medal of Freedom for helping break the PGA Tour color barrier in 1961. The award is the highest honor in the country for a civilian.

Although legendary boxer Joe Louis played a huge part in desegregating golf, Charlie was the first to play on the PGA Tour on a regular basis and play well at the same time. He had to endure the stressful time of segregation and had to deal with racism and received threats.

One incident was when he received a phone call just before the second round of the Greater Greensboro Open when a white man with a southern accent called him and threatened him.

“I couldn’t solve anything by violence. It would just ensure that all blacks, beginning with me, would be permanently barred from the tour.” Charlie said of the incident. 

Yet, he overcame it all and became the first black player on the PGA Tour and opened the door to diversity in the sport of golf. Not only did he desegregate golf, he had a very solid resume, winning 22 professional tournaments including the Los Angeles Open and the legendary Hartford Open Invitational (Now known as the popular Travelers Championship) winning those in a two-year period of time.

He also won a major championship and the Senior PGA in 1975. He then got inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004 making him the first African-American to be inducted. He received the Old Tom Morris award in 2007 for his contributions to the game and sportsmanship on the course.

His swing was one of the most unusual looking yet fluid in golf history. He tends to swing with his right elbow lower than most on the backswing and he’ll extend his arms on the follow through. This has helped him excellently on short game shots as he was one of the best to do it.

Whether it was a pitch, chip, etc, you knew he was going to get it close to the pin or in the hole. Just a magician with the clubs and that’s why he won 22 titles.

He had two top 35 finishes at the majors with T33rd finish at the 1965 PGA Championship at Laurel Valley Golf Club and finished tied for 21st at the 1972 U.S. Open which was the first major ever held at Pebble Beach. He’s definitely one of my all-time favorite golf legends. He played the game right, he persevered over the odds, and gave him two great victories on a Tour that was very segregated.

Here’s a quote from President Obama. Thanks to for sharing:

“I look forward to presenting these nineteen bold, inspiring Americans with our Nation’s highest civilian honor,” President Barack Obama said. “From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world.”

Tiger Woods took to Twitter to thank the man who he called grandpa.

Despite the design of the course, Charlie nailed those crooked fairways right. Down. The. Middle. Thank you Charlie for opening up the doors for minorities in this great sport. You are truly, a legend.

Charlie is only the third golfer to receive such a high honor. The other two were Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Charlie as well as the other 18 well deserved winners will be honored at the White House on November 24th, 2014.

Hit me up on Twitter @ChiGolfRadio!



Posted in Golf News and tagged , , , , by with 2 comments.
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