The Changing Face of Golf

by Abigail Knowles Wolfe (BPRW)

The Changing Face of Golf
Golf has often been perceived as a white, upper-class sport; an expensive hobby held sacred by the rich and famous. Tiger Woods 1997 Masters Tournament win made him the first ever person of color to win such a prestigious title. Although Tiger Woods has indeed changed the world of golf as viewed in the eyes of the African American community, there were several exceptional African American golfers preceding Tiger’s world-renown that are not so well known.

The second U.S. Open in history was held in Southampton, New York in the year 1896. African American golfer John Shippen, Jr. placed 5th in that event. Appearing in six U.S. Opens, the final one in 1913, John Shippen Jr. was a 19th century golfer of exceptional skill. It wouldn’t be until the year 1948 that another such African American golfer would appear on the scene. Theodore “Ted” Rhodes is often recognized as the first professional African American golfer, in fact, Tiger Woods credited him after his 1997 Master’s win.

Those frequenting the golf course nowadays have most likely been witness to the changing face of golf. A diverse range of people, men and women, black and white now take part in the sport. African Americans have in fact meant so much to the game of golf that the African American Golfers Hall of Fame exists today in the golf Mecca of West Palm Beach, Florida. A quarterly publication entitled “African American Golfers Digest” exists to cater to the needs of today’s avid African American golfer with news and helpful tips on the sport as well as reports on who out there is playing it. Perhaps there is a child out there right now who will one day excel to the level of Tiger Woods?
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