History Lesson: Celebrating Charlie Sifford’s first TOUR win in Hartford
June 24, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Charlie Sifford was the first African American to earn a PGA TOUR card in 1960. (PGA TOUR)
Charlie Sifford was facing a four-shot deficit when he made the turn in the final round of the 1967 Travelers Championship, but that was nothing. He’d already overcome much bigger adversity in his life.
Sifford became the first African American to earn a PGA TOUR card in 1960, at the age of 39, after living through constant racism in his efforts for equality. The PGA of America (who ran the TOUR at the time) dropped their “Caucasian only” membership clause the following year.
Despite being a prolific winner in African American events, Sifford had yet to win an official TOUR event when he arrived at Wethersfield Country Club in August 1967. The now 45-year-old had possibly seen his prime pass him by.
Still, he felt he could win on that day. A birdie on the 10th was followed by another at the 13th before he chipped in from long grass for an eagle on the par-5 14th hole to join the lead. A few clutch pars later, including an up-and-down on the 18th that he completed with a nervy 4-foot par putt, proved to be enough for a historic win.
“When you go from 7 to 11 under par in five holes, something has got to give,” Sifford told the Hartford Courant before tears overwhelmed him at the trophy presentation.
“I’ll play as long as I can walk. I just love to play golf. I think this has given me enough confidence to plan on winning another tournament.”
It had been a long journey to the winner’s circle and even as Sifford forged the victory, the mayor of nearby New Haven was implementing a curfew as racial tensions spilled into riots. Sifford had among others, beaten Steve Oppermann by one and Raymond Floyd, Doug Ford, Gary Player and Dan Sikes by two shots on the course that week but he was constantly trying to beat prejudice from birth.
Recently we challenged students to learn more about Charlie Sifford as part of our Links to Learning program and encourage all to do the same.
For the record Sifford did win again, at the 1969 Los Angeles Open, now aptly run by Tiger Woods as The Genesis Invitational. And then added success on PGA TOUR Champions before becoming the first African American inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame.