Posted on April 19, 2024

The Most Famous Golfer at the Masters Is Black. Why Aren’t There More Players Like Him?

Peter May, New York Times, April 14, 2024

When the Masters Tournament commenced on Thursday, featuring 89 competitors, there was exactly one Black golfer in the field: the one we all know, Tiger Woods. Beyond that, the field for the 88th Masters didn’t look all that different from the previous 87.

This is not what Charles Sifford envisioned when he and Stanley Mosk, the attorney general of California, fought to integrate the Professional Golfers’ Association of America. Sifford, who is often referred to as the Jackie Robinson of golf, became the first Black P.G.A. member in 1964 after a decades-long fight to join the organization that had, for much of its history, stated in its charter that it would admit only golfers “of the Caucasian race.”

Sifford blazed a trail for talented Black golfers such as Lee Elder, Calvin Peete, Jim Dent, Jim Thorpe and, of course, Woods. But 60 years later, their stories of success are still exceptions. The P.G.A. remains woefully inaccessible to Black golfers and has made only marginal and inadequate efforts to diversify its ranks. According to Golf Digest, fewer than 1 percent of the P.G.A.’s 29,000 members are Black. The P.G.A.’s tournaments and its professional golf shops need to take concrete steps to look more like the America they purport to represent.

In 2014 the P.G.A. identified diversity and inclusion as “foundational principles” but, in practical terms, that has meant little more than the occasional golf camp or clinic at a public course in a Black neighborhood. The P.G.A. recently partnered with the Advocates Professional Golf Association, which was founded in 2010 to diversify the game, and together they will host 18 tournaments this year. But the P.G.A. must do more to lead the way in action and by example, promoting inclusion at every level. Until private country clubs, elite prep schools and Division I golf programs actively recruit and train Black golfers, Sifford’s legacy will remain unfulfilled, and the game will continue to be dominated by white players.


{snip} The 2022 Masters featured just three Black players, which was a record high for the tournament. There were no Black golfers last year in the United States Open, and this year’s Masters features only Woods {snip}

There are currently efforts to promote diversity in golf, such as the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption at the Genesis Invitational, which sets aside a spot in the tournament for a golfer of color every year. Why not introduce such an exemption at every P.G.A. tournament? The P.G.A. should also be funding more programs to develop young Black golfers, as well as interest in golf among Black athletes. This year, the basketball star Stephen Curry — who funded the revival of the golf program at the historically Black Howard University — will be honored at the World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony with the Charlie Sifford Award for advancing diversity in golf. {snip}