For 20-plus years, JoAnn Gregory Overstreet and her husband, Louis, turned their Las Vegas residence into a mini-shrine to her mother, one of golf’s true pioneers. The sun room featured scrapbooks, photos, plaques, trophies and other memorabilia from the life and times of Ann Gregory, the first African-American woman to compete in a USGA championship.
“It’s luck that we kept a lot of the pictures, scrapbooks and other stuff from her accomplishments,” said JoAnn.
Overstreet wanted to preserve the memorabilia so that her grandchildren – she has two, with another due in May – could appreciate what their great-grandmother achieved during an era when the game was not welcoming to black players.
Ann Gregory endured bigotry and prejudice in her quest to test herself against elite female competitors during the 1950s. Her chance finally came in 1956 when she played in both the U.S. Women’s Open at Northland Country Club in Duluth, Minn., and the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis. By the time she passed away on Feb. 5, 1990, Gregory had competed in 27 USGA championships, including a runner-up finish in the 1971 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.
Just a few months before she died, Gregory won a gold medal in the National Senior Olympics in St. Louis at the age of 76.
“She just loved the game of golf and she just wanted to play,” said Overstreet.
Thanks to the generosity of Overstreet, Gregory’s legacy and passion are on full display in a temporary exhibit at the USGA Golf Museum through March 12, as part of the USGA’s celebration of Black History Month. Among the artifacts is Gregory’s 1956 U.S. Women’s Amateur competitor’s badge, which was acquired from the Zaharias Golf Foundation. Three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion and Olympic gold medalist Babe Didrikson Zaharias called it one of her most prized possessions.