First Black pro golfer honored

OW Staff | 10/26/2011, 5 p.m.

Charles Sifford, who in 1961 became the first African American to compete on the Professional Golf Association Tour, was inducted into the Southern California Golf Association Hall of Fame Tuesday.

Sifford, a Charlotte, N.C., native, scored one of his key professional wins in 1969, when he took first place in the prestigious Los Angeles Open. The 89-year-old golfer began his career at age 13, working as a caddy.

Because of the exclusion of Blacks from professional golfing, he would go to work as a personal coach to people like bandleader Billy Eckstine and play in tournaments organized by Black golfers.

He first attempted to participate in a PGA tournament in 1951 at the Phoenix Open, but was rebuffed by threats. Then in 1957, he won the Long Beach Open, which was not an official PGA Tour event but was co-sponsored by the organization and had some well-known White players in the field. That title helped pave the way for his PGA debut.