Charlie Sifford, who 53 years ago became the first black golfer to earn a PGA Tour card, was named one of 19 recipients of this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Sifford, now 92, helped desegregate the PGA of America in 1961. He went on to win the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and 1969 Los Angeles Open, then captured a pair of titles on the senior circuit, the 1975 PGA and 1980 Suntree Classic. In 2004, he became the first black golfer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The Northern Trust Open has also created an exemption in Sifford’s name that promotes diversity in the game.
Arnold Palmer (2004) and Jack Nicklaus (2005) are the only other golfers to receive the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
“I look forward to presenting these nineteen bold, inspiring Americans with our Nation’s highest civilian honor," President Barack Obama said. "From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world.”
Tiger Woods also reacted to the news late Monday night, tweeting about Sifford:
You're the grandpa I never had. Your past sacrifices allow me to play golf today. I'm so happy for you Charlie.— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) November 11, 2014
Recipients will be honored in a ceremony at the White House on Nov. 24. Journalist Tom Brokaw, actress Meryl Streep and singer Stevie Wonder are among the other 19 honorees.