“There’s not a man on this tour who could have gone through what I went through to be a golfer. I still can’t believe I went so long without breaking down or quitting the game… I don’t smile much, and I never laugh. It’s just something that’s in me. If you’d been through what I’ve been through, you wouldn’t be smiling, either.
“I was made for a tough life, because I’m a tough man. And in the end, I won; I got a lot of black people playing golf. That’s good enough. If I had to do it over again, I’d do it exactly the same way.” – Charlie Sifford
Before there was a thought that someone like Tiger Woods would exist in golf, Charlotte native Charlie Sifford was breaking down barriers so that there could be.
Growing up as a caddie at the Carolina County Club, Sifford learned the game and became an excellent golfer. He won the Negro National Open six times and had 17 other wins, including the 1957 Long Beach Open where he became the first black golfer to win a PGA sanctioned event and once they removed their whites-only clause at the end of 1961, Sifford became a regular on the tour – winning two tournaments and the 1975 Seniors’ Championship.
During his career Sifford played in 422 PGA tournaments. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last November.
“On the tour, Charlie was sometimes banned from clubhouse restaurants. Folks threatened him, shouted slurs from the gallery,” President Barack Obama said at the ceremony.
“We owe everything to (Sifford) and others like him,” Tiger Woods said during his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
Sifford, who suffered a minor stroke a few months ago, died Tuesday in Cleveland at age 92.