“By his courage, Dr. Sifford inspired others to follow their dreams… Golf was fortunate to have had this exceptional American in our midst.” That’s PGA of America President Derek Sprague addressing the death and long life of golfer and activist Charlie Sifford, who died this week at 92. Sifford desegregated professional golf in 1961, challenging the PGA’s “Caucasian-only” clause. He won The Greater Hartford Open in 1967 and the LA Open in 1969.
Dubbed the “Jackie Robinson of golf” for his pivotal role in beginning to reverse racial discrimination in the sport, Sifford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in November 2014. There will never be another Charlie Sifford because of all the opportunities that the original Charlie Sifford made possible. In a time when the word courage is used pretty freely, it’s important to remember that Charlie Sifford embodied real courage. As a statement from the White House read, Sifford ended up too “often facing indignity and injustice even as he faced the competition.” He persevered. Sifford’s doctorate was honorary and perfectly made: it was granted by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, the birthplace of golf.
Terrible loss for golf and me personally. My grandfather is gone and we all lost a brave, decent and honorable man. I’ll miss u Charlie.
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) February 4, 2015