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Maggie Hathaway’s mighty voice lives on in LA’s next generation

4 Min Read


Maggie Hathaway at the dedication of Victoria Golf Course. (Courtesy: County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation)

Maggie Hathaway at the dedication of Victoria Golf Course. (Courtesy: County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation)

How the bravery and courage of an aspiring actress helped pave the way for equality in the game of golf

    Written by Tyler Bruno

    Where were you first introduced to the game? At what age did you begin playing? These are two common questions that frequently follow when you tell anyone that you play golf, and the common answer is often, “At the local municipal golf course.”

    But accessibility to golf in Southern California is a problem that has persisted as long as Hollywood has been around, with everyone from Bill Spiller – the man who broke the color barrier in professional golf – to legendary boxer Joe Louis fighting this systemic issue that fractured the game. One unlikely hero in these efforts, however, was Louisiana’s very own Maggie Hathaway.

    Hathaway moved to the City of Angels to pursue her dream of becoming a singer and actress. But she quickly noticed that the representation of black people in Hollywood was gravely missing and knew that something had to be done. Sadly, Hathaway did not get her storybook ending when it came to acting after she refused to play a role in a film about former President Woodrow Wilson that promoted racist depictions of black people in America.

    However, the end of her acting career only led to more advocacy for Hathaway. In fact, her entry into the game in 1955 could have been a movie script of its own. Hathaway had tracked down the heavyweight champion at Los Angeles’ Griffith Park Golf Club in order to give Louis a piece of her mind: “I went out to Griffith Park to reprimand him because he was playing in pro-ams when truly excellent black golfers like Bill Spiller weren’t allowed to play,” she said via the Los Angeles Times.

    “I caught up with him at No. 8, which was a short par 3,” she recalled. “He hit down to the green, and I told him, ‘Anybody could do that.’ He said, ‘OK, you try. If you hit the green, I’ll buy you a bag of golf clubs.’ I hit the green with the first shot I ever took in my life, and he bought me the clubs.”

    She made it her mission in life to fight for equality for African Americans on and off the course. Hathaway fought tirelessly to make sure that her community was afforded the same luxuries and opportunities. Specifically, Hathaway made a point of visiting segregated country clubs throughout Los Angeles in order to advocate for her own people’s rights.

    In 1962, she became the founding president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood chapter of the NAACP. The following year, Hathaway led a protest against the PGA of America, leading picket during a tournament at the Long Beach municipal golf course to protest the lack of golf jobs for Black professional golfers. Careers in golf for African Americans was a huge priority for her work, and the remainder of her life was filled with breaking the mold. She spent three decades writing a column in the Los Angeles Sentinel,highlighting the accomplishments of Black professional golfers, and never gave up the fight for her people.

    Maggie Hathaway, right, at the re-dedication of the golf course in her honor. ((Courtesy: County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation)

    Maggie Hathaway, right, at the re-dedication of the golf course in her honor. ((Courtesy: County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation)

    In 1997, the Jack Thompson Golf Course – a modest, par-3 course located in South Los Angeles – was renamed in her honor. Today, the Maggie Hathaway Golf Course is the focal point of several youth golf initiatives focused on making golf more accessible to the community Hathaway fought for. One program, Youth on Course, is one of those organizations, known for providing its members with access to rounds of golf costing just $5 or less. Los Angeles Golf Club, the inaugural team in TGL, is investing in the revitalization of the golf course so it can continue its legacy as a pillar in the community. Among the team’s investors are tennis icons Serena and Venus Williams, who grew up just 15 minutes away from the par-3 facility in Compton, California.

    The collaborative investment into youth golf in Southern California is reflected at The Genesis Invitational today. What was once the Los Angeles Open, where Hall of Famer Charlie Sifford won in 1969, now serves as a Signature Event on the PGA TOUR benefitting the TGR Foundation. Hathaway’s life work is alive and well thanks to her willingness to fight for inclusivity in golf and the promotion of youth investment with players such as Chase Johnson, the 2024 Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption recipient, and Kris Stiles, an LA native and the Genesis Collegiate Invitational Collegiate Showcase’s Pathway player.

    Hathaway might have quipped, “Anyone could do that,” when Louis threw down that fateful bet, but in reality, it was only Hathaway – the actress, singer, golfer, writer and activist – who could do anything she put her mind to.

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