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Golf Pioneers | Charlie Sifford

Golf Pioneers | Charlie Sifford

Golf Pioneers | Charlie Sifford

February 14, 2024

Our next Golf Pioneer is Charlie Sifford. Known as the “Jackie Robinson” of golf, Sifford was the first African-American player to earn a PGA Tour card in 1961. His influence on the game of golf is unquestionable, with one of the game's greatest players, Tiger Woods, crediting Sifford for paving the way for his own career, and even naming his son after Sifford. 

Sifford started playing professionally in 1948, competing in golf tournaments that African-American golfers had organized for themselves, since they were excluded from competing on the PGA Tour at the time. During these years Sifford would win the United Golf Association’s National Negro Open six times, including five straight from 1952 to 1956. 

While competing in those tournaments, Sifford would also try to qualify for PGA Tour events during that time, including at the 1952 Phoenix Open, where he used an invitation that former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Joe Louis, another golf pioneer, had obtained. In 1957, Sifford won the Long Beach Open, though it wasn’t an official PGA Tour event, it was co-sponsored by the organization. Two years later Sifford would have another breakthrough, competing in the U.S. Open, where finished in a tie for 32nd place. 

After showing he could compete with the best of the best, Sifford would become an official PGA Tour member in 1961, becoming the first African-American to join the Tour. After clearing that gigantic hurdle, Sifford would continue to show that he was among the game’s best players, regardless of race. He would collect two wins while on tour, first at the 1967 Greater Hartford Open, and then at the 1969 Los Angeles Open, where he defeated Harold Henning in a playoff. Though not Tour events, Sifford would also add victories at the 1963 Puerto Rico Open and the 1971 Sea Pines. Then in 1972, he would finish in a tie for 21st place at the U.S. Open, his best finish in a major tournament while on the PGA Tour. Once he turned 50, Sifford would compete in the PGA Seniors’ Championship, the top tournament for players over 50 at the time, winning it in 1975.

In 2004, Sifford became the first African-American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Some of his other golf honors include: an Honorary Degree from the University of St. Andrews, Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, and the Charlie Sifford Exemption at the Northern Trust Open, given to a player who represents the advancement of diversity in golf. Then in 2014, Sifford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, the highest civilian award in the United States.

Sifford passed away in 2015 at the age of 92. But his legacy within the sport of golf will last forever. He broke barriers so anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity or creed could play this sport we all love, and play it at the highest levels. 

Here at 2nd Swing Golf we are celebrating Black History Month with sales of our African-American Golf Pioneers posters, which feature the likes of Charlie Sifford and many more pioneers of the sport. These posters are for sale on our website, with all proceeds going towards PGA Hope. We will also match 100% of all orders through the month of February.