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10 African-American Pro Golfers

Golf and race have always had an interesting, and sometimes, unfortunate past. However, over the years, there have been a number of brave African-American individuals who refused to see the game as black or white. Without them, Tiger Woods would never have been Tiger Woods.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we take a look 10 African-American golfers that broke golf’s color barrier. 

Charlie Sifford

 
 
 
 
 
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June 11, 1959 Charlie Sifford Became the First African American to play in a US Golf 🏌️ open⛳️ . #letmeplay

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Charlie Sifford was not only the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour, he also was one of the most decorated. He notched two career wins with the first being at the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the other came during the 1969 Los Angeles Open.

He also won the PGA Seniors’ Championship in 1975, as well as the United Golf Association’s National Negro Open six times. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2014. Tiger Woods has acknowledged that Sifford paved the way for his career.

Calvin Peete

 
 
 
 
 
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Before Tiger Woods came along, Calvin Peete was the most successful African-American to have played on the PGA Tour. He claimed 12 wins in his career and lead the PGA Tour in driving accuracy from 1981-1990. He also won the Vardon Trophy for best scoring average on tour in 1984. Peete was inducted into the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

Althea Gibson

 
 
 
 
 
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Althea Gibson became the first African-American to join the LPGA Tour in 1964. She was one of the tour’s top 50 money winners for five years and made it all the way to 27th on the rankings list at her peak in 1966. Her best finish on tour was a tie for second after a three-way playoff at the 1970 Len Immke Buick Open. She was also a prolific tennis player, having previously broken the color barrier in international tennis, and won 5 Grand Slam singles titles, including Wimbledon and what is now the U.S Open in the same year twice.

Lee Elder

 
 
 
 
 
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In 1975, Lee Elder became the first African-American to play in the Masters. He won four times on the PGA Tour during his career, as well as claimed eight PGA Tour Champions victories. In 1979 he broke the Ryder Cup color barrier becoming the first black man to qualify for the prestigious biennial event.

Renee Powell

 
 
 
 
 
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Renee Powell was the second African-American to ever play on the LPGA Tour. She won the Kelly Springfield Open in Brisbane, Australia and competed in more than 250 professional events. She also became one of the first female members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in February 2015.

Pete Brown

 
 
 
 
 
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Pete Brown was the first African-American to win a PGA Tour event by claiming the 1964 Waco Turner Open. He also won the 1970 Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational defeating Tony Jacklin in a playoff. He played on the PGA Tour for 17 seasons.

Cheyenne Woods

 
 
 
 
 
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The niece of Tiger Woods, Cheyenne Woods is the sixth African-American to play on the LPGA Tour. She won the ACC championship in 2011 then turned professional after graduating from Wake Forest in 2012 and made her debut at the 2012 LPGA Championship. Her first pro win came at SunCoast Ladies Series in late August 2012. She also won the Ladies European Tour’s 2014 SheVolvik RACV Ladies Masters. 

Ted Rhodes

 
 
 
 
 
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Ted Rhodes participated in the 1948 U.S. Open at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, California and became recognized as the first African-American professional golfer. He mostly played United Golf Association sanctioned tournaments during his career, winning an absurd 150 times. He also fought to change the PGA’s “Caucasian only clause.” In the 1960s Rhodes mentored several black PGA players including Lee Elder and Charlie Sifford. In 1998, posthumous, Rhodes was inducted into the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame.

Charles Owens

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Charles Owens became a professional golfer in 1967 and joined the PGA Tour in 1970. During his seven years on the Tour, Owens won the 1971 Kemper Asheville Open, a “satellite” PGA Tour event. The biggest year of his professional career came on the Senior PGA Tour in 1986, when he won twice in three consecutive tournaments and finished eighth on the money list. In 1987 he won the Ben Hogan Award and was inducted into the African American Golfers Hall of Fame in 2007.

Bill Spiller

 
 
 
 
 
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Bill Spiller didn’t pick up the game until he was about 30 years-old. He started competing and winning blacks-only amateur golf tournaments during the 1940s. Spiller spent most of his professional career combating racial segregation and inequalities with the PGA. In 2009 the PGA of America finally granted him posthumous membership.

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