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.”

Getty Images

'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team

By Nick MentaJuly 19, 2018, 4:45 pm

“The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.

Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.

Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.

A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.

"Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told GolfChannel.com in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."

Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."

He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.

Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.

“It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.

"The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.

In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Web.com Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

“I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."

The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.

Getty Images

Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

Getty Images

'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

Getty Images

Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”