Barrier-breaking Sifford dies at 92

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 4, 2015, 4:45 am

Charlie Sifford, who broke golf's color barrier and helped desegregate the game, died Tuesday at age 92.

Sifford – who became the first black golfer inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001, and was just the third golfer, after Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom last November – suffered a bacterial infection and a stroke last week. 

"Charlie was the first African-American to earn a PGA tour card – often facing indignity and injustice even as he faced the competition," President Barack Obama said in a statement. "Though his best golf was already behind him, he proved that he belonged, winning twice on tour and blazing a trail for future generations of athletes in America."

His scores on the course pale in comparison to what he did for the game. Sifford received a tour card after the PGA of America desegregated in 1961, and was known as the "Jackie Robinson of golf."

''His love of golf, despite many barriers in his path, strengthened him as he became a beacon for diversity in our game,'' PGA of America President Derek Sprague said. ''By his courage, Dr. Sifford inspired others to follow their dreams. Golf was fortunate to have had this exceptional American in our midst.''


Photos: Charlie Sifford through the years


Tiger Woods has often cited Sifford as an inspiration, referring to him in a congratulatory tweet in November as "the grandpa I never had," adding, "Your past sacrifices allow me to play golf today. I'm so happy for you Charlie."

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sifford began caddieing at 13. As he developed as a player, he competed in tournaments organized by black golfers, who were excluded from the PGA of America. He also coached band leader Billy Eckstine.

Sifford first tried to qualify for a PGA event at the 1952 Phoenix Open, using an invitation he got from former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, an avid golfer. Sifford was the object of threats and racial harassment there and at other tournaments.

In 1957 he won the Long Beach Open, which was not an official PGA event, but was co-sponsored by the PGA. After gaining his tour card, he won the 1967 Greater Hartford Open Invitational and the 1969 Los Angeles Open. Neither win, however, procured him an invitation to the Masters, which did not invite an African American to play until Lee Elder in 1975.

Sifford's 1992 autobiography, "Just Let Me Play," written with James Gullo, revealed some of the prejudice and abuse Sifford was subjected to, on and off the course, including not being allowed to eat in many clubhouse dining rooms, not being allowed to stay in many hotels and not being allowed to play in many tournaments. And there were death threats, but despite everything, Sifford refused to back down.

Another black golfer, Walter Morgan, told Rhonda Glenn of the USGA that he tried to read Sifford's book, but became too emotional to finish it. “The stuff that he had to go through ... I couldn’t have gone through that, but thank God he did,” Morgan told Glenn. “His book is right, ‘Just Let Me Play.’ And he took it, that kind of stuff. I just don’t think I could have taken that. I really don’t.”

As a senior player, Sifford had two individual wins and six team wins. He captured the PGA Seniors' Championship in 1975, five years before it became a Champions Tour major. He also won the 1980 Suntree Classic. He had six wins in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf tournament, teaming with Roberto DeVicenzo to win the Legendary Division in 1988, '89 and '91, and with Joe Jimenez to win the Demaret Division in 1998-2000.

“The world of golf has lost one of its most inspirational and significant figures," said Jack Peter, COO of the World Golf Hall of Fame. "In the very sense of the word, Charlie Sifford was a trailblazer for not only the game of golf, but for mankind. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sifford family. While our hearts are heavy with sadness as we grieve Charlie’s passing, we also celebrate an incredible life.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.