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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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Mondays Off

Mondays Off: Chez wins the Travelers with his own swing and holiday golf is approaching!

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Chez wins the Travelers Championship with a swing that Steve is unsure of. Talking about the Rocket Mortgage and when Knudson is going down to watch. Look out, it is holiday golf and 5.5-hour rounds are the norm!

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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Opinion & Analysis

Hot & Cold: Where strokes were won and lost at the Travelers Championship

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In “Hot & Cold,” we’ll be focusing each week on what specific areas of the game players excelled and disappointed in throughout the previous tournament. On Sunday, Chez Reavie captured the second PGA Tour title of his career, and here’s a look at where some of the most notable players gained and lost strokes over the four days of action at the Travelers Championship.

Hot

Chez Reavie held off the challenge of Keegan Bradley to win his first title on the PGA Tour in over a decade, and the American’s irons were critical to his success. Reavie led the field for strokes gained: approaching the green in Connecticut, gaining 6.4 strokes over the field in this area. Check out the clubs Reavie used on his way to victory in our WITB piece here.

Jason Day returned to form last week, and the Australian excelled with his iron play for the four days of action. The 31-year-old has had issues with his ballstriking recently, but at the Travelers, Day gained 6.4 strokes over the field for his approach play – his best performance in this department since the 2016 PGA Championship.

Keegan Bradley’s putter has often been a thorn in the 33-year-old’s side, but last week in Connecticut it served him beautifully. Bradley led the field in strokes gained: putting at the Travelers, gaining a total of 9.8 strokes with the flat-stick. It snaps a streak of 11 straight events where Bradley had lost strokes on the green.

Cold

Jordan Spieth continues to struggle, and once again, the issue revolves around his long game. The Texan lost a combined total of 4.3 strokes off the tee and with his approaches at the Travelers – his worst total in this area since The Players.

Justin Thomas showed plenty of positive signs last week, with the second highest strokes gained: tee to green total in the field. However, Thomas’ putter was stone cold, and the 26-year-old lost a mammoth 7.8 strokes to the field on the greens. That number represents his worst performance of his career with the flat-stick, and Thomas has now lost strokes to the field on the greens in his last seven successive events.

Brooks Koepka struggled on his way to a T57 finish last week, with the 29-year-old losing strokes to the field off the tee, with his irons and on the green. It is the first time that Koepka has lost strokes in each of these three areas in a single event since the 2018 Tournament of Champions.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The best golf club innovations?

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Being in the golf equipment industry for nearly 40 years, I have paid close attention to the evolution of golf equipment over its modern history. While I’ve never gotten into the collecting side of golf equipment, I have accumulated a few dozen clubs that represent some of the evolution and revolution in various categories. As a club designer myself, I ponder developments and changes to the way clubs are designed to try to understand what the goals a designer might have had and how well he achieved those goals.

Thinking about this innovation or that got me pondering my own list of the most impactful innovations in equipment over my lifetime (the past 60 years or so). I want to offer this analysis up to all of you for review, critique, and argument.

Woods: I would have to say that the two that made the most impact on the way the game is played is the introduction of the modern metal wood by TaylorMade back in the 1980s, and the advent of the oversized wood with the Callaway Big Bertha in the 1990s. Since then, the category has been more about evolution than revolution, to me at least.

Irons: Here again, I think there are two major innovations that have improved the playability of irons for recreational golfers. The first is the introduction of the numbered and matched set, a concept pioneered by Bobby Jones and Spalding in the 1930s. This introduced the concept of buying a “set” of irons, rather than picking them up individually. The second would be the introduction of perimeter weighting, which made the lower lofted irons so much easier for less skilled golfers to get airborne. (But I do believe the steadfast adherence to the concept of a “matched” set has had a negative effect on all golfers’ proficiency with the higher-lofted irons)

Putters: This is probably the most design-intense and diverse category in the entire equipment industry. History has showed us thousands of designs and looks in the endless pursuit of that magic wand. But to me, the most impactful innovation has to be the Ping Anser putter, which has been…and still is…copied by nearly every company that even thought about being in the putter business. Moving the shaft toward the center of the head, at the same time green speeds were increasing and technique was moving toward a more arms-and-shoulders method, changed the face of putting forever. I actually cannot think of another innovation of that scale in any category.

Wedges: Very simply, I’ll “take the fifth” here. To me, this is a category still waiting for the revolutionary concept to bring better wedge play to the masses. The “wedges” on the racks today are strikingly similar to those in my collection dating back to a hickory-shafted Hillerich and Bradsby LoSkore model from the late 1930s, a Spalding Dynamiter from the 50s, a Wilson DynaPower from the 70s,  and so on.

Shafts: Hands down, to me the most impactful innovation is the creation of the carbon fiber, or graphite, shaft. After fruitless ventures into aluminum and fiberglass, this direction has improved the performance of golf clubs across the board. You haven’t seen a steel-shafted driver in two decades or more, and irons are rapidly being converted. Personally, I don’t see me ever playing a steel shaft again in any club – even my putter! But beyond that, I’d have to say the concepts of frequency-matching and “spine-ing” shafts made it possible to achieve near perfection in building golf clubs for any golfer.

Wild card: This has to go to the invention of the hybrid. After decades of trying to find a way to make clubs of 18-24 degrees easier to master, Sonartec and Adams finally figured this out. And golfers of all skill levels are benefitting, as this is just a better way to get optimum performance out of clubs of that loft and length.

So, there’s my review from a lifetime of golf club engineering. What can you all add to this? What do you think I missed? I hope to see lots of conversation on this one…

 

*featured image via Ping

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