Althea Gibson Dies at 76

By Golf Channel NewsroomSeptember 29, 2003, 4:00 pm
Althea Gibson, who broke into professional golf in 1963 after becoming a major tennis star, died Sunday of respiratory failure.
Gibson, 76, had been seriously ill for several years. She died at a hospital in East Orange, N.J., after two days in the intensive care ward.
Gibson was the first black player on the LPGA Tour. She became a household name on the tennis courts, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. tennis Open in 1957 and 1958 - also the first black to do so.
Gibson was born Aug. 25, 1927, in Silver, S.C., and lived in East Orange for most of the last 30 years. The Althea Gibson Foundation, based in Newark, was created to help urban youth develop their skills in tennis and golf.
Gibson retired from the tennis soon after her 1958 Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles because there was no prize money and few lucrative endorsements. She turned pro and, together with Karol Fageros played before Harlem Globetrotter games. It wasn't until 1968, the start of the Open era, that the major tennis tournaments paid pro players.
She took up golf in 1962, when a friend took her to Inglewood Country Club in New Jersey. By now she was 34 years old, and at Inglewood she was offered the facilities of the club and took lessons from the pro.
The challenge of being accurate, of hitting a still ball and making it do what you want, opened another avenue of athletics for me, she told British writer Liz Kahn.
I was not ready to hang up my sports equipment; I still felt strong, agile, and my mind was clear on what I wanted to do. I had never seen a womens professional golf tournament. I didnt think I knew any of the players, but there was a tour in existence for women, there was an organization for women, and I wanted to be a professional golfer.
I spent every day practicing, as well as playing 18 or 36 holes. I turned professional in 1963, when I was 36 years old.
She became the first black player on the circuit, during an era when segregation was still quite strong throughout the country. She was refused entry at a California club when she tried to take lessons from Betty Hicks. She was refused admittance to many restaurants and hotels. It was just such an occasion when she was denied a room in Columbus, Ohio, when Marlene Hagge happened by and was horrified by what she heard. Hagge told Gibson to come with her, and the two became friends and frequent roommates.
Gibson, however did not become as outstanding a player in golf as she had become in tennis. She played in six events her first year, 1963, but her scoring average was 77.73, too high to keep her card. In 1964 she gained it after playing in four tournaments. Her best year was 1967, when she won $5,567 in 25 events. She was 23rd on the LPGA money list that year and finished a career-high third.
She continued to play in golf tournaments until 1977, when she was 50 years old. She retired and devoted her life to the foundation.
Gibson won her first tennis tournament at 15 after spending much of her early childhood in Harlem, becoming the New York State black girls' singles tennis champion. Boxer Sugar Ray Robinson helped pay for her travels.
She spent her high school years in Wilmington, N.C., then attended Florida A&M on a tennis and basketball scholarship. In 1950, she was the first black to play in the National Grass Court Tennis Championships, the precursor of today's U.S. Open, coming within a point of beating Wimbledon champion Louise Brough.
She broke the racial barrier at Wimbledon the following year.
'She was a great champion and great person. We had a good relationship - she was always there for me even when I was a nobody,' Martina Navratilova said Sunday in Leipzig, Germany, where she won her 172nd career doubles title.
'Her life was very difficult, but she broke down a lot of barriers and doors and made it easier for a lot of us.'
Gibson was The Associated Press' Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958. Following her 1957 Wimbledon victory, she was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City and an official welcome at City Hall.
Gibson was married twice; husbands William Darben and Sidney Llewellyn are deceased.
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry