Joining the Game Against the Odds
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. 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.
Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET
Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.
“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.
She wondered if there would be resentment.
She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”
PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.
Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.
She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.
Fans have been stopping her for autographs.
“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.
He waved Lincicome over.
“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”
Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.
“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.
Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.
Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.
“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.
Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.
Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.
Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.
What are Lincicome’s expectations?
She would love to make the cut, but . . .
“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.
“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”
Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.
Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.
As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.
“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”
Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.
The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.
“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.
Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.
She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.
It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.
Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.
"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”
Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.
Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.
“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”
Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.
“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”
The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.
“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”