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 GolfChannel.com 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.
You’re the grandpa I never had. Your past sacrifices allow me to play golf today. I’m so happy for you Charlie.
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) November 11, 2014
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.
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Posted in Golf News and tagged Charlie Sifford, Charlie Sifford Golf, Golf Legends, Golf News, Medal of Freedom by Colin GP Mieczkowski with 2 comments.