Althea Gibson Dies at 76
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.
Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage
NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:
Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)
Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)
Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.
1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.
Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.
Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.
“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”
It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.
Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.
“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”
It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.
Tweets by GCTigerTracker
McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.
McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.
But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.
“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.
“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.
“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”
McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.
“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”
McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.