There is an overdue effort underway to celebrate the accomplishments of Charlie Sifford, often referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of Golf.” Sifford was born in 1922 in North Carolina, during the racist Jim Crow era. He was a caddie, but not allowed to play golf on the whites-only course despite his massive talent. After a decorated stint in the military, Sifford made his way into the UGA, the professional circuit for African American golfers. During the Jim Crow era non-white golfers were relegated to playing municipal courses, except in cities that had Jewish Country Clubs, which warmly welcomed them. He relocated his family to Los Angeles, where he played many rounds at Rancho and Hillcrest. While playing at Hillcrest he became friendly with Stanely Mosk, the soon to be California Attorney General and the longest tenured justice to ever sit on the California Supreme Court. Mosk recognized Charlie’s phenomenal talent and the injustice of the PGA’s “Caucasian Only” clause in its constitution, which prohibited non-whites from competing on that circuit. In 1958, Mosk joined Sifford in his fight against the PGA to abolish that clause. The duo was successful and in 1961 Charlie Sifford became the first African American to compete on the PGA TOUR. Sifford went on to win the LA Open at our very own Rancho Park Golf Course in 1969, one of his proudest professional achievements. Charlie was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2014 and was the first Black player admitted to the World Golf Hall of Fame. He is Tiger Woods’ honorary “grandpa” and Tiger named his son Charlie after him. It’s widely accepted that if Charlie Sifford had not paved the way, there would be no Tiger Woods to follow. It’s my belief that Sifford is a prominent athlete with a storied legacy who deserves to be remembered, especially by the neighborhood that witnessed some of his earliest success.
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