History of Golf - Part Eight African-Americans and Golf

By George WhiteAugust 14, 2002, 4:00 pm
No one knows for certain who started golf. But everybody knows who plays it now ' everyone does.
 
From all walks of life, from every corner of the globe come men and women who play the game. From the six courses of Botswana and its 1,100 golfers to Japan with its 12 million to the U.S. with more than 1,000 courses and 25 million golfers, golf has arrived. The game is played by all ' Maoris of New Zealand, Hispanics of the Caribbean and Mexico, natives of Fiji, Hawaiians and Japanese and Koreans.
 
Nowhere has the game been played with more determination ' and under more imposing odds ' than with the African-American population in the United States. Blacks were assumed to caddie for their slavemasters in the South in the days of slavery, and they took up the game in large numbers in the early 1900s.
 
The golf tee, in fact, was invented by African-American George F. Grant in 1899. Grant was a dentist by trade and he took up golf after the Civil War. The patent office gave him a trademark on his invention of the tee, but he never marketed it. He shared some with friends and playing partners, but most he kept squirreled away in his home. He died in 1910 without accumulating much wealth from the invention, leaving those who followed him to amass the fortunes from the golf tee.
 
John J. Shippen, Jr., was an early golfing pioneer who played in the second U.S. Open. The son of a Presbyterian minister, he was only 16 years old in 1896 when the Open was played at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island. His father was sent by the church to minister to the Shinnecock Indians, and young Shippen met Scottish pro Willie Dunn when he was just 12 years old.
 
Shippen became quite a proficient player, rising to the position of assistant pro at Shinnecock Hills under Dunn. When the Open came to Shinnecock, he decided to enter after much prodding from members. The field of 35 was almost entirely foreign-born. When they learned Shippen, who was a light-skinned black, was in the field, a boycott immediately was planned.
 
Two reports are given on the solution offered by Theodore Havemeyer, the president of the USGA. One is that Havemeyer claimed Shippen was half Shinnecock Indian, which made his race of less importance. Another is that Havemeyer told the golfers that, yes, Shippen was black, and if the competition included but one player and that was Shippen, it would go on.
 
Regardless of what was told to the field, the tournament did proceed and Shippen played. He was tied for first place at the end of Day 1, but on the second he struggled on the par-4 13th and took an 11. He eventually finished seven strokes behind winner James Foulis. He would, however, play in four more U.S. Opens.
 
Another prominent early African-American was Joe Bartholomew, who grew up in New Orleans and entered the caddie ranks by the age of seven in 1887. He became an exceptional player, attended college in New York to study golf course architecture, and eventually returned home to ply his trade.
 
He designed several courses in New Orleans, but because Bartholomew was black, many members of the courses refused to let him play what he had designed.
John Brooks Dendy was very poor as a child in the 1920s, but he wanted to be a golfer. He collected several metal clubheads. He fashioned shafts out of broomhandles and played with the clubs for several years. He won the Southern Open at 18, then won it two more times ' in 1934 and 1936.
 
Racism and prejudice were still rampant over the country, of course, and in 1925 an organization for black golfers was founded ' the United Golfers Association. The African-Americans were not even considered for play in white tournaments. That slowly began to change, however ' with Bill Spiller and Ted Rhodes, and finally with Charlie Sifford.
 
Spiller was raised in the Tulsa, Okla., area after having been born in 1913. He went to college at Wiley in Texas, then moved to Southern California. An exceptional player, Spiller was repeatedly foiled in his attempts to play professionally. He developed friendships with many white pros, some of whom (Jimmy Demaret, Johnny Bulla) made valiant efforts to get him into tournaments where he could compete against the great pros of the era.
 
Solely because he was black, though, Spiller was omitted. And not just Spiller, but also Rhodes, another great golfer. The former heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Louis, worked his way into the white establishment because of his fame, playing in several tournaments in the 1950s. He had begun to play in 1935 and lost to Max Schmeling in 1936, many believe, because he was focused too much on golf and not enough on boxing.
 
The PGA of America contained a clause which was written into the bylaws in 1943, stating, Professional golfers of the Caucasian race, over the age of eighteen years, residing in North or South America, and who have served at least five years in the profession (either in the capacity of a professional or in the employ of a professional as his assistant) shall be eligible for membership.
 
In 1948, rumblings began, rumblings which one day would strike the clause down. Only three tournaments allowed black players to compete ' the Canadian Open, the Tam OShanter All-American in Chicago and the Los Angeles Open. Tournaments which were heretofore known as Opens, meaning tournaments which supposedly were open to everyone, often changed their names to Invitationals to exclude black players.
 
A provision in the PGA rules stated that anyone who finished in the top 60 was eligible to play the next week. Spiller and Rhodes did so in the 1948 L.A. Open and went on to Oakland, which was the next tour stop. They were incensed when they were not allowed to play and filed suit against the PGA.
 
Their attorney, Jonathan Rowell, was persuaded by the PGA that the situation was about to change and dropped the case. It didnt. But Demaret, Jackie Burke and Leland Gibson constantly campaigned for the black players to their fellow pros. And in 1961, the Caucasians-only rule finally came to a head.
 
By now, Spiller was reduced to caddying to earn money. One day in Los Angeles, a gentleman for whom he caddied asked Spiller why did not play. Spiller told the man, Harry Braverman, about the clause.
Braverman advised Spiller to write to the California Attorney General, Stanley Mosk. An incredulous Mosk told the PGA that they could no longer play an event on a public course in California, then wrote the attorneys general of most other States with the same information.
 
The PGA finally bowed to the waves of negative publicity in November of 1961, canceling the clause. Charlie Sifford, Pete Brown, Lee Elder and many others were free to tee it up in a tournament. They endured much abuse and were refused many public services in the towns where they played, but played on regardless.
 
Brown was the first African-American to win a tournament when he won the Waco Turner Open near Ardmore, Okla., 1964. Sifford won the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 L.A. Open. Lee Elder in 1975 was the first black to play in the Masters.
 
Since then, others have blazed the trail. Calvin Peete, Jim Dent, Jim Thorpe and others have joined the PGA Tour. Walter Morgan and Bobby Stroble have joined the Senior Tour, among others.
 
One player, though, may be destined to become the greatest player of all, black or white. The mans name? Tiger Woods.
 

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.

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Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.