The USGA And Minority
January 21, 2009
By Rhonda Glenn
The United States Golf Association has a long history of
welcoming minorities, starting with a forceful statement of
equality made by USGA President Theodore Havemeyer more
than 100 years ago.
John Shippen, an African-American who had helped build
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island before becoming
its assistant professional, entered the second U.S. Open,
held at Shinnecock. A handful of professionals threatened
to withdraw if Shippen played. Havemeyer told the
professionals to withdraw if they wanted to, but Shippen
was going to play. And this was in
Shippen, who tied for fifth, was followed by a long line
of minority players in USGA championships, including Ted
Rhodes, Pete Brown, Charles Sifford, Calvin Peete, Lee
Elder, Jim Dent and Jim Thorpe.
In 1959, William A. Wright became the first
African-American to win a USGA championship -- the U.S.
Amateur Public Links Championship. And then came Tiger.
Woods followed the road paved by pioneer minority golfers
and won three straight U.S. Junior Amateurs, three straight
U.S. Amateur Championships, and three U.S. Open titles.
In the women's side of the game, progress was difficult.
In 1956, soon after the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott led
by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ann Gregory became the first
African-American to play in the U.S. Women's Amateur.
Gregory played in a number of USGA championships. In 1971,
she nearly won the USGA Senior Women's Amateur, finishing
as runner-up by one stroke.
Althea Gibson, Eoline Thornton and Renee Powell followed
Gregory as notable minority players. Powell, a longtime
member of the USGA Girls' Junior Committee, is also one of
many minority USGA committee members.