USGA Honors African-American Sports Icons

New exhibit at the USGA Museum celebrates Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis and Althea Gibson

By USGA
February 8, 2012

The USGA will celebrate the contributions to golf of sports legends Joe Louis, Althea Gibson and Jackie Robinson (left to right) with a special exhibit at the USGA Museum.

The United States Golf Association is honoring the accomplishments in the game of golf of three transcendent African-American athletes – Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis and Althea Gibson – with a special exhibit at the USGA Museum.

Opening Feb. 17, 2012, and running through the end of July, “American Champions and Barrier Breakers” celebrates the lives, athletic achievements and important legacies of these American icons to the game of golf. Featuring artifacts, documents and photographs, the exhibit also highlights some of the numerous contributions that African Americans have made to golf.

Curated by Susan Wasser, assistant manager of operations at the USGA Museum, the exhibit is part of the USGA’s ongoing commitment to attracting a diverse audience to the game. This retrospective is one of the initiatives surrounding the African-American Golf Archive, which was formed in 2010 by the USGA and The PGA of America to collect, preserve and celebrate the history of African Americans in golf.

“Our exhibition explores the role of these three great American champions and how their participation and convictions changed the game,” said Wasser. “As the world’s leading institution for the study and education of golf history, the USGA Museum is well suited to preserve and celebrate the African-American golf experience in this way.”

Very few athletes endured as many obstacles as Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The Hall of Fame second baseman helped open the door for other great black ballplayers such as Willie Mays, Bob Gibson and Hank Aaron, who called Robinson his “personal hero.” After retiring from baseball, Robinson became a competitive player among the great African-American golfers of his era and was a tireless advocate for equal opportunity in the game of golf.

Robinson played frequently with Louis, one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. Louis left an indelible stamp on golf as the first African American to play in a PGA Tour event, the 1952 San Diego Open. Louis also provided financial support to several African-American golfers, including many players on the United Golfers Association (UGA) Tour. His golf legacy continues with his son’s involvement as chief executive officer of The First Tee. Joe Louis Barrow Jr. heads this charitable organization dedicated to providing young people of all backgrounds “educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.”

As one of the top tennis players of her era, Althea Gibson won 11 Grand Slam titles – five singles and six doubles – between 1956 and 1958 and ascended to the world’s No. 1 ranking in 1957. The first African-American woman to win Wimbledon, Gibson also became the first African American to join the LPGA Tour, in 1964. She enjoyed a successful career that included a runner-up finish in the 1970 Len Immke Buick Open and 11 USGA championship appearances. Through her athletic accomplishments and perseverance, she set an example for future generations of female athletes.

Artifacts featured in “American Champions and Barrier Breakers” include Gibson’s golf bag, clubs and scorecard; Louis’ contestant badge from the 1949 UGA National Championship; and Robinson’s head cover, which is branded with his uniform number, 42.

In conjunction with the opening of the exhibit, the USGA Museum will host a one-day symposium on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The symposium will feature presentations by Barrow; Renee Powell, the second African American to play on the LPGA Tour; Dr. Calvin Sinnette, author of “Forbidden Fairways;” Bill Wright, the first African American to win a USGA championship, the 1959 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship; and Dr. Yohuru Williams, Chief Historian, Vice President for Public Education & Research for the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

The symposium is free and open to the public. To register, contact the Museum receptionist at (908) 234-2300 ext. 1057 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday, or email museum@usga.org.

Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
Chevron
   

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.


Chevron image
Rolex
   

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.



Rolex image
IBM
   

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website, www.usopen.com, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit http://www.usopen.com/IBM

AmEx image
Lexus
   

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit http://www.lexus.com/

AmEx image
American Express
   

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit www.americanexpress.com/entertainment


AmEx image