Golf legend, Charlie Sifford has unfortunately passed away at the age of 92. Sifford was well known and beloved among the golfing community for many things. He was a United States Army veteran who fought in World War II and smashed racial barriers upon his return to America.
Charlie Sifford wanted to become a professional golfer while he was abroad and managed to fulfill his dream when he returned. Charlie grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was home to a white-only country club where he worked. Charlie earned a mere 60 cents a day, and 50 of which went directly to his mother. When Charlie became 13 he was allowed to play the course on Mondays and soon enough he was getting better and better. Charlie never stopped and never quit on his dream.
In 1947, Charlie met Jackie Robinson who had just broken the racial barrier in Major League Baseball. The two athletes discussed racial barriers in sports and Robinson told Charlie he could never give up on his dream. No matter the hostility he might face or the prejudices he would open himself up to, quitting was not an option.
Charlie Sifford played in the “black players only” league all the way into his 30s until in 1961 when the P.G.A. dropped its “whites only” rule. As soon as the barrier was dropped Sifford was able to expand his play and compete with top professional talent like Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus.
Charlie has served as an inspiration and a role model for countless athletes either competing in golf or not. Charlie Sifford’s fight for equality paved the way for other African-American athletes like Lee Elder, Jim Dent, and even Tiger Woods.
Charlie became the first black player to compete in the Masters golf tournament, Los Angeles Open, P.G.A. Seniors’ Championship, and countless other tournaments. In 2004 history was made once more when Charlie was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame as the first African-American player. Charlie has even been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
Charlie Sifford lived a storied life where he battled overseas and here in America for what he wanted and his dreams. Charlie accomplished more than he set out for and his presence will not only resonate throughout golf, but sports in general for eternity.