Sifford Was Allowed To Come In Through The Front Door , Tiger Merely Nudged It Ajar ……………..
Charlie Sifford was the first African American to be allowed to play on the PGA Tour. And he also holds the distinction to be the first minority to have played in a Major. That being said those advancements within the game of golf and the very fact that now seated atop of the world golf rankings a minority in the guise of Tiger Woods. It has to be asked where are the next set of minorities going to be coming from when it comes to competing on the PGA Tour ? I know that Woods probably laments the fact that we’ve yet to see anyone from the African American mould set forth and compete on the Tour.
And though with the notable exception of Native American Indian Notah Begay III . We’ve not seen an ethnic minority of the African American persuasion compete full time on the PGA Tour. The PGA itself has programs in place to bring the sport to the masses. And in particular to minorities. But it’d appear that their enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be shared for the game. Other than to watch Woods compete at the highest echelons of the game.
Now comes the worrisome task as to how to address this anomaly. Prior to 1961 the game was segregated and the only course of redress that many African Americans had by way of competing was to play in games that were organized by the United Golf Association. One has also has to remember that at the time the PGA had it written into its bye-laws that their events were only open to Caucasians. So if anything for these men they were not only being handicapped by the game itself but also by the PGA Tour. As they weren’t even afforded the respect that one would deem befitting to them.
It may well suggest how far the game has now come. As we’ve witnessed seeing Woods become a success on the Tour. As well as him becoming its main attraction. But it also portends to the fact that once Woods decides to leave the Tour. We may not see the interest now being shown in the game. And at the same time we’ve yet to see an African American come to the fore on the PGA Tour by way of competing at any level. It’d would be remiss to suggest that there’s still some inherent racism on the PGA Tour. Nothing could be further from the truth. But what has become alarmingly clear is that African American males or females haven’t gravitated towards the sport by way competing professionally. One can suggest that because many African Americans live in the city they’re not given access to the game first hand. And at the same time the expense of the game , even starting can run into the hundreds if not thousands of dollars. The affinity that they may well have however is just to watch Woods compete. Rather than they are picking up the mantle of wanting to follow in his footsteps.
In the NFL and NBA many males and females had players that they aspired to be like. And they were afforded the choice of being able to garner a college scholarship in order to pursue their goals. In golf however the notion that another African American can aspire to be like Woods plainly hasn’t materialized into anything tangible. Albeit that the PGA Tour has enacted the Charlie Sifford Exemption in collaboration with one of their primary sponsors Northern Trust. The first recipient of this will be Oregon State graduate Vincent Johnson. A fitting tribute for what Sifford has brought to the game.
The game has fared well over the years but it has become distinctively noticeable that were it not for the introduction of Woods unto the PGA Tour. With all of the hoopla that it entailed it would be very difficult to see where the game would now find itself. The purses have become gargantuan and a player can make a more than comfortable living on the Tour. So much so that in many cases it’s been suggested the majority of the players love playing second fiddle to Woods. He has become the heart and soul of the PGA Tour. And as his fortunes fare so do theirs.
But as alluded to earlier where will the next Woods come from amongst the African American community ? If we’ve yet to see a minority of that persuasion compete on the Tour. Is there any reason to hold out much hope ?