Charlie Sifford

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Charlie Sifford
Sifford winning the 1969 Los Angeles Open
Personal information
Full nameCharles Luther Sifford
Born(1922-06-02)June 2, 1922
Charlotte, North Carolina
DiedFebruary 3, 2015(2015-02-03) (aged 92)
Cleveland, Ohio
Sporting nationality United States
ResidenceBrecksville, Ohio[1]
Turned professional1948
Former tour(s)PGA Tour
Champions Tour
Professional wins22
Number of wins by tour
PGA Tour2
PGA Tour Champions1
Best results in major championships
Masters TournamentDNP
PGA ChampionshipT33: 1965
U.S. OpenT21: 1972
The Open ChampionshipDNP
Achievements and awards
World Golf Hall of Fame2004 (member page)
Old Tom Morris Award2007
Presidential Medal
of Freedom

Charles Luther Sifford (June 2, 1922 – February 3, 2015) was an American professional golfer who was the first African American to play on the PGA Tour. He won the Greater Hartford Open in 1967 and the Los Angeles Open in 1969. He also won the United Golf Association's National Negro Open six times, and the PGA Seniors' Championship in 1975.

For his contributions to golf, Sifford was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004. He was awarded the Old Tom Morris Award in 2007, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, and an honorary doctorate from the University of St Andrews. Lee Trevino referred to Sifford as the "Jackie Robinson" of golf, and Tiger Woods acknowledged that Sifford paved the way for his career.

Early life and career[edit]

Sifford was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1922.[2] He began work as a caddy at the age of thirteen.[3] He moved to Philadelphia when he was 17 years old, where he played against local black golfers.[4] He often played at Philadelphia's Cobbs Creek Golf Course, a public facility that did not restrict players based on race, gender, or ethnicity.[5]

Sifford began golfing professionally in 1948.[6] He competed in the golf tournaments that black golfers organized for themselves as they were excluded from the Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA). Sifford won the United Golf Association's National Negro Open six times,[7] including consecutive wins from 1952 through 1956.[6] Sifford later worked as a valet and golf instructor to the singer Billy Eckstine, who also financially supported his career when he was unable to find sponsorship.[8]

Sifford first attempted to qualify for a PGA Tour event at the 1952 Phoenix Open, using an invitation obtained by former World heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. Sifford was subjected to threats and racial abuse there and at other tournaments.[9]

In 1957, Sifford won the Long Beach Open, which was not an official PGA Tour event, but was co-sponsored by the PGA and had some well-known white players in the field.[10] Sifford competed in the U. S. Open in 1959 for the first time and tied for 32nd place.[3] He became a member of the Tour in 1961, thus becoming the first African-American to join the PGA Tour.[11] He went on to win two official money events, the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 Los Angeles Open,[12] and finished in the top 60 in overall winnings in his first nine years as a member of the PGA Tour.[13] He also won the 1963 Puerto Rico Open and the 1971 Sea Pines. He tied for 21st place at the 1972 U.S. Open, his best finish in a major tournament.[3] He competed in the PGA Seniors' Championship, then the leading tournament for golfers over fifty, winning the event in 1975.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Sifford's wife, Rose, died in 1998. They had two sons, Charles Jr. and Craig.

Sifford, a resident of Brecksville, Ohio, was hospitalized for a stroke one month before he died in Cleveland, Ohio.[14] He died on February 3, 2015, at the age of 92.[14]


Lee Trevino said of Sifford, "You have to put him in the Jackie Robinson category."[11] Tiger Woods named his son Charlie after him and referred to Sifford as "the Grandpa I never had," and that, without Sifford, "I probably wouldn't be here. My dad would have never picked up the game. Who knows if the clause would still exist or not? But he broke it down."[15]

In 2004, Sifford became the first African American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.[16] He chose Hall of Fame member South African Gary Player to present him for induction. On June 22, 2006, he received an honorary degree from the University of St Andrews as a Doctor of Laws.[17] He also received the 2007 Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), the GCSAA's highest honor.[18]

In 2009, the Northern Trust Open created an exemption for a player who represents the advancement of diversity in golf; it is named in honor of Sifford and is referred to as the Charlie Sifford Exemption.[19]

In 2011, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation changed the name of Revolution Park Golf Course to Dr. Charles L. Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park.[20]

President Barack Obama awarded him the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom.[1][11][21]

Professional wins (22)[edit]

PGA Tour wins (2)[edit]

No. Date Tournament Winning score Margin of
1 Aug 20, 1967 Greater Hartford Open Invitational −12 (69-70-69-64=272) 1 stroke United States Steve Oppermann
2 Jan 12, 1969 Los Angeles Open −8 (63-71-71-71=276) Playoff South Africa Harold Henning

PGA Tour playoff record (1–0)

No. Year Tournament Opponent Result
1 1969 Los Angeles Open South Africa Harold Henning Won with birdie on first extra hole

Other wins (12)[edit]

  • 1952 UGA National Negro Open
  • 1953 UGA National Negro Open
  • 1954 UGA National Negro Open
  • 1955 UGA National Negro Open
  • 1956 UGA National Negro Open, Rhode Island Open
  • 1957 Long Beach Open
  • 1960 UGA National Negro Open, Almaden Open (unofficial win – one year before becoming a PGA Tour event)
  • 1963 Puerto Rico Open
  • 1971 Sea Pines
  • 1975 Northern Ohio PGA Championship

Senior PGA Tour wins (1)[edit]

No. Date Tournament Winning score Margin of
1 Nov 16, 1980 Suntree Classic −9 (70-71-71-67=279) 4 strokes United States Don January

Other senior wins (7)[edit]

Results in major championships[edit]

Tournament 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
U.S. Open T32 T46 T43 27 CUT T32
PGA Championship T33 T59 CUT
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980
U.S. Open T49 T21 CUT 60 CUT CUT
PGA Championship T48 CUT CUT
  Did not play

CUT = missed the half-way cut
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Note: Sifford never played in the Masters Tournament or The Open Championship.[3]


  1. ^ a b Koff, Stephen (November 24, 2014). "President Obama awards Charles Sifford the Presidential Medal of Freedom".
  2. ^ Goldstein, Richard (February 4, 2015). "Charlie Sifford, Who Shattered a Barrier of Race in Golf, Dies at 92". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b c d Corcoran, Tully (June 6, 2014). "Charlie Sifford stayed the course". Fox Sports. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  4. ^ Chappell, Bill (February 4, 2015). "From Caddy To Pro: Golfer Charlie Sifford Dies At 92". NPR. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  5. ^ Hirsh, Jack (April 17, 2023). "Why Tiger Woods (and Gil Hanse!) are tackling Philadelphia's most historic muni". Golf Magazine. Retrieved July 30, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Crowl, Jonathan (November 26, 2014). "Charlie Sifford, Who Broke PGA's Color Barrier, Gets Presidential Honor". The Post Game. Yahoo Sports. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  7. ^ Strubberg, Jay (February 4, 2015). "Charlie Sifford, first black golfer on PGA tour, dies at 92". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  8. ^ Ginell 2013, p. 166.
  9. ^ a b Ballengee, Ryan (February 4, 2015). "Golf pioneer Charlie Sifford dead at 92". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  10. ^ Glenn, Rhonda (February 7, 2012). "A Hard Road to Golf Glory". USGA. Archived from the original on February 24, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c Rhoden, William C. (November 25, 2014). "A Pioneer's Tribute Is Both a Reward and a Reminder: Charlie Sifford Is Given the Presidential Medal of Freedom". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Almasy, Steve (February 6, 2015). "Charlie Sifford, who broke golf's color barrier, dies at 92". CNN.
  13. ^ Dwyre, Bill (November 24, 2014). "President Obama recognizes golf pioneer Charlie Sifford". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  14. ^ a b "Golf pioneer Charlie Sifford dies". ESPN. February 4, 2015. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  15. ^ Dufresne, Chris (February 4, 2015). "Tiger Woods reacts to death of golf pioneer Charlie Sifford". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  16. ^ "Sifford set to break another barrier: World Golf Hall of Fame will welcome first black member". MSNBC. Associated Press. November 13, 2004. Archived from the original on November 14, 2004.
  17. ^ "Charlie Sifford passes away at 92". Fox News. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  18. ^ Evans, Farrell (November 12, 2014). "Sifford's legacy honored by a nation". ESPN. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  19. ^ "Sifford Exemption 'out of this world'". ESPN. Associated Press. February 2, 2009.
  20. ^ "Dr. Charles L. Sifford Golf Course at Revolution Park". Archived from the original on February 3, 2015. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  21. ^ "President Obama Announces the Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients". November 10, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2014 – via National Archives.


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