by Sharon Smith
As a native Charlottean and the first Black golfer on the PGA Tour, Charlie Sifford’s pioneering contributions are everlasting. It’s only fitting that as one of golf’s greatest competitions comes to Quail Hollow Club this month, Sifford’s legacy is recognized in a meaningful way.
That’s the mission behind The Charlie Sifford Centennial Cup, which was played in late August and featured six of the top men’s golf programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Teams competed under the Presidents Cup format at Quail Hollow Club a few weeks ahead of the headlining competition. Team Charles Sifford Jr. took home the honor with players from Salisbury’s Livingstone College, Florida A&M, and Alabama State. The PGA TOUR is also donating $25,000 to each of the HBCUs and to the Dr. Charles L. Sifford Scholarship.
“My father’s vision was that the golf establishment provide equal access to make the game of golf more inclusive to all people,” Charles Sifford Jr. said earlier this year in a media statement. His father passed away in 2015 at the age of 92 and would have turned 100 years old this year. “He dreamed of young people playing a championship course with the opportunity to acquire experience and knowledge of what it takes to compete at the highest level.”
During his career, Sifford faced discrimination but persevered through racial taunts and threats to claim multiple victories. Sifford finally earned a PGA Tour player card in 1960 at the age of 39. A year later, the PGA Tour dropped its Caucasian-only membership clause. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2014. Sifford also received an honorary doctorate degree from The University of St Andrews in Scotland for his trailblazing career.
Today, the Dr. Charles L. Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park attracts golfers of all abilities and backgrounds. Each hole on the public course tells a story from Sifford’s life. It’s also the home course for First Tee Greater Charlotte, a mentoring program which makes golf affordable and accessible for kids. SP
Photographs courtesy Getty Images / PGA TOUR