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Opinion & Analysis

The most influential African-Americans in golf in 2019

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On this, the last day of Black History Month, it’s a time to reflect on the achievements that African-Americans have made to the game of golf. We take a moment to honor the accomplishments of George Grant (inventor of the wooden tee), John Shippen (first African-American to play in the U.S. Open), William Powell (first African-American to build, own and operate a golf course),  Charlie Sifford (first African-American on the PGA Tour) and many more.

From Clyde Martin to Calvin Peete, people of color have made an indelible impact on the history of the ancient game. The tradition continues today, with a group of African-Americans that carry the torch for the players of tomorrow. They come from different places on the map and arrived at the game in different ways. But there is no denying the influence they have and their singular ability to use it. Congratulations to the 2019 Most Influential African-Americans in Golf.

Junior Bridgeman

An All-American and NBA All-star basketball player, Bridgeman went on to become a highly successful restaurant entrepreneur. In 2008 he was named to the PGA of America Board of Directors.

Lee Elder

Elder broke the color line at Augusta, becoming the first African American to play in the Masters tournament in 1975. Playing with style and courage despite the many death threats he received that week, Elder missed the cut that year.  But made his mark on the game, notching four wins on the PGA Tour and eight on the Champions Tour. Elder was also the first African-American to play in the Ryder Cup. He was just named the 2019 winner of the Bob Jones Award, the USGA’s highest honor. His omission from the World Golf Hall of Fame is a travesty that should be corrected while the 84-year old Elder is still alive to appreciate it.

Damon Hack

A seasoned journalist who has worked for some of the most prestigious publications in the country, Hack is a familiar face in the morning for millions of homes as the co-host of Golg Channel’s, “The Morning Drive”.

Sheila Johnson

After co-founding the entertainment colossus Black Entertainment Television, Johnson turned her keen business eye on the destination golf business. Her holdings include some of the most coveted golf destinations in the U.S., including Innisbrook Resort in Tampa, Florida, which hosts the PGA Tour each on its famed Copperhead course each Spring. Johnson has also been in a strong presence in the leadership of the USGA and a generous contributor to charity through her golf endeavors.

 

Renee Powell

A pioneer on many levels, Powell comes from a family of trailblazers; her father was the above-mentioned William Powell of Clearview Golf Club in Ohio. She became a world-class player in her own right, and an advocate for equality on and off the golf course.  Among her many accolades are an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of St Andrews in 2008. In 2015, was invited to become one of the first women members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

Erwin Raphael

As Chief Operating officer of Genesis Motor Company, Raphael is the driving force behinds the company’s name sponsorship of the PGA event hosted by the Tiger Woods Foundation each year at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.

Condoleeza Rice

Rice has made her mark in politics, business and academia. After a life of exceptional achievement, Rice took up golf at age 50 and has never looked back. She is an avid player, often participating in some the best-known Pro-Ams. And she is a member at a little club in Augusta, Georgia…

Darius Rucker

Rucker achieved fame with the band Hootie & the Blowfish and then as a solo artist. His global appeal along with his passion for the game just got him named an official ambassador of the PGA .

Ron Townsend

A media mogul and self-described golf nut, Townsend made history when he became the first African-American member at Augusta National Golf Club.

Tiger Woods

Considered by many the greatest player of all time, Woods has made his mark in countless ways. His fearless and relentless style of play has spawned a generation of imitators on every professional tour. His fan appeal has drawn people of all races and creeds to golf, with golf courses now present on every county on earth where there is soil. Maybe his most lasting contribution was to golf’s bottom line. For example, Woods turned professional in 1996; the leading money winner for the year was Tom Lehman with $1,780,000 spread over 22 events. For his win at the 2019 WGC Championship in Mexico, Dustin Johnson earned $1,745,000. Mic drop.

Harold Varner III

At the age of 28, Varner has already notched two worldwide victories. Despite his relatively small stature he is one of the longer hitters on the PGA Tour. With a stockpile of talent and a grinder’s mentality, Varner is sure to be a fixture on the professional golf scene or years to come.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Peter

    Mar 2, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    Michael – you were the wrong person to write this article, as you very much deserve a place on the list!

  2. Sully Smith

    Mar 1, 2019 at 8:57 am

    I think Lee Elder would have had a better first showing at the Masters if reporters would have left him alone at some point so he could focus on his game. If you are going to include Tiger Woods why not Cameron Champ? Also, Harold Varner III is on the PGA Tour, not his dad, Harold Varner Jr. Thanks!

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Opinion & Analysis

Everyone sucks at golf sometimes

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with tools singularly ill-designed for the purpose.”

This quote dates back over 100 years, and has been credited to a number of people through history including Winston Churchill and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Although the game and the tools have changed a lot in 100 years, this quote remains timeless because golf is inherently difficult, and is impossible to master, which is exactly what also makes it so endearing to those that play it.

No matter how hard we practice, or how much time we spend trying to improve there will inevitably be times when we will suck at golf. Just like with other aspects of the game the idea of “sucking” will vary based on your skillset, but a PGA Tour player can hit a hosel rocket shank just as well as a 25 handicap. As Tom Brady proved this past weekend, any golfer can have a bad day, but even during a poor round of golf there are glimmers of hope—like a holed-out wedge, even if it is followed by having your pants rip out on live TV.

I distinctly remember one time during a broadcast when Chris DiMarco hit a poor iron shot on a par 3 and the microphone caught hit exclaim “Come on Chris, you’re hitting it like a 4 handicap out here today” – the shot just barely caught the right side of the green and I imagine a lot of higher handicap golfers said to themselves ” I’d love to hit it like a 4 handicap!”. This is just one example of the expectations we put on ourselves even when most golfers will admit to playing their best when expectations are thrown out the window.

– Gary Larson

Dr. Bob Rotella says golf is not a game of perfect, and that’s totally ok. The game is about the constant pursuit of improvement, not perfection and with that in mind there are going to be days when no matter what we just suck.

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Opinion & Analysis

By definition, there will be no 2020 U.S. Open. Here’s why the USGA should reconsider

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In 1942, the USGA decided to cancel the U.S. Open because it was scheduled so soon after U.S. entry into WWII.  They did this out of respect for the nation and those called to war. There was a Championship however called The Hale America National Open Golf Tournament, which was contested at Chicago’s  Ridgemoor Country Club. It was a great distraction from the horror of war and raised money for the great cause.

All the top players of the era (except Sam Snead) played, and the organizers (USGA, Chicago Golf Association, and the PGA of America) did hold qualifying at some 70 sites around the country. So effectively, it was the 1942 U.S. Open—but the USGA never recognized it as such. They labeled it a “wartime effort to raise money” for the cause.  Their objection to it being the official U.S. Open was never clear, although the sub-standard Ridgemoor course (a veritable birdie fest) was certainly part of it.

The USGA co-sponsored the event but did not host it at one of their premier venues, where they typically set the golf course up unusually difficult to test the best players. Anyway, Ben Hogan won the event and many thought this should have counted as his fifth U.S. Open win. The USGA disagreed. That debate may never be settled in golfer’s minds.

Ahead to the 1964 U.S. Open…Ken Venturi, the eventual winner, qualified to play in the tournament. His game at the time was a shell of what it was just a few years earlier, but Kenny caught lighting in a bottle, got through both stages of qualifying, and realized his lifelong dream of winning the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Ahead to the 1969 U.S. Open…Orville Moody, a former army sergeant had been playing the PGA Tour for two years with moderate success-at best. But the golfing gods shone brightly upon “sarge” through both stages of qualifying, and the tournament, as he too realized the dream of a lifetime in Houston.

Ahead to 2009 U.S. Open…Lucas Glover was the 71st ranked player in the world and had never made the cut in his three previous U.S. Opens. But he did get through the final stage of qualifying and went on to win the title at Bethpage in New York.

Ahead to 2020…The USGA has decided to postpone the event this year to September because of the Covid-19 virus. This was for the fear of the global pandemic. But this year there is a fundamental difference—the USGA has announced there will be no qualifying for the event. It will be an exempt-only event. By doing so, the event loses it status as an “open event,” by definition.

This is more than a slight difference in semantics.

The U.S. Open, our national championship, is the crown jewel of all USGA events for many reasons, not the least of which is that it is just that: open. Granted, the likelihood of a club professional or a highly-ranked amateur winning the event—or even making the cut—is slim, but that misses the point: they have been stripped of their chance to do so, and have thereby lost a perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity to realize something they have worked for their whole lives. Although I respect the decision from a  health perspective, golf is being played now across the country, (The Match and Driving Relief—apparently safely)

So, what to do? I believe it would be possible to have one-day 36-hole qualifiers (complete with social distancing regulations) all over the country to open the field. Perhaps, the current health crisis limits the opportunity to hold the qualifiers at the normally premier qualifying sites around the country but, as always, everyone is playing the same course and is at least given the chance to play in tournament.

In light of the recent “opening” of the country, I am asking that the USGA reconsider the decision.

 

featured image modified from USGA image

 

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Podcasts

TG2: Reviewing Tour Edge Exotics Pro woods, forged irons, and LA Golf shafts

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Reviewing the new Tour Edge Exotics Pro wood lineup, forged irons, and wedge. Maybe more than one makes it into the bag? Fujikura’s MCI iron shafts are some of the smoothest I have ever hit and LA Golf wood shafts get some time on the course.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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