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Donna L. Halper

was born Thelma Louise Simmons, in Eatonton, Georgia, one of eight children of Sidney (Sid) Simmons, a grocer, and his wife Carrie (Mathis). Her family moved to Detroit in 1922, and she attended Northwestern High School, where she participated in swimming, as well as track and field. In 1927, when she was fifteen, she married Charles Lorenzo McTyre; they went on to have two children, a son and a daughter, before divorcing in 1936.

Thelma began to play golf around 1940 She had been diagnosed with anemia and her doctor told her that fresh air and exercise would help her to regain her health Her sister Theresa Howell also became a golf fan around the same time and they soon became competitors as well as teammates The two were attending Morris Brown College in Atlanta and they started a golf team on campus they also organized ...


Martha Wilson

one of the first African American golfers to play on the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA) tour. Born in Dallas, Texas, Elder was orphaned at an early age. He moved to Los Angeles to live with his sister, and surreptitiously entered segregated golf courses at night, where he taught himself to play golf. He moved in 1966 to Washington, D.C., where he served in the army and distinguished himself as a skilled golfer. It was here that he met and married his first wife, Rose Harper Lee. He became a professional golfer in 1959 and joined the all-black United Golf Association tour in 1961.

In 1967 he joined the mainstream PGA and in 1971 he played in the first racially integrated tourn`ament in South Africa s history after first making sure that he and his wife could stay at the hotel of their choice and could ...


Michael C. Miller

professional golfer, was born in Dallas, Texas, the youngest of eight children of Charles, a truck driver, and Almeta Elder. Charles died in World War II, and Almeta just a few weeks later, leaving Lee to be raised by his older sister Sadie. In 1943 he started shagging golf balls and caddying at Tennison Golf Course, trying to earn money to help his family. The club professional at Tennison allowed caddies to play the holes not visible from the clubhouse, and by age twelve, Elder was a regular player and hustler on the course, including hustling and caddying for the legendary hustler, gambler, and golfer Titanic Thompson (Alvin C. Thomas). In 1949 Elder left Dallas to live with an aunt in Los Angeles, California, mainly to have more opportunities to play golf since blacks were restricted from most courses in Dallas.

Elder continued caddying and hustling ...


Robert Lee Elder, known as Lee, spent his early years in Dallas, Texas. Elder's father, Charles, was employed as a coal truck driver in Dallas before he was killed in combat during World War II. His mother, Sadie, died shortly thereafter. Lee and his seven siblings moved several times before they finally settled with a relative in Los Angeles, California.

Elder learned to play golf as a teenager while working as a caddy at country clubs in San Bernadino, California. He served in the United States Army from 1959 to 1961, during which time he continued to play golf and was named captain of the golf team at Fort Lewis, Washington. After leaving the army Elder joined the African American United Golf Association (UGA) Tour. Elder dominated the tour, winning titles in 1963, 1964, 1966, and 1967 While on tour he met and married ...


Jason Philip Miller

professional golfer, was born in Owens, South Carolina, but her family relocated to Washington, D.C., and would remain there for the rest of her life. Little information about her early years or upbringing is available. As an adult, she managed the school cafeteria at Dunbar High School. She married Eugene Funches, an elevator operator at the National Geographic Society, and avid amateur golfer. It was from him that she learned the game.

At the time no white golf clubs or courses would admit African Americans, so blacks created their own competitive golf leagues and opened their own courses. Sometime in the early 1940s, Funches joined one of these, the Wake Robin Golf Club in Washington. Wake Robin had been founded not long before, in 1936 by thirteen women whose husbands were members of DC s Royal Golf Club The Royal Golf Club was only open to African American men ...


Michael A. Antonucci

tennis champion and professional golfer, was born in Silver, South Carolina, the first of five children of Daniel Gibson and Annie Gibson, who worked as sharecroppers. The family moved to New York City in 1930, and Gibson grew up in Harlem. As a youth Gibson rejected rules and authority; a frequent truant, she dropped out of high school after one year. She did, however, enjoy competition, playing basketball and paddleball, and shooting pool. After Gibson won a 1941 Police Athletic League paddleball championship, Buddy Walker, a tournament official, suggested that she try playing tennis. With Walker's assistance, she began tennis lessons at Harlem's Cosmopolitan Club.

The following summer, Gibson was ready for tournament play. She won the 1942 New York State Open in the girls division a victory that began her rise through the ranks of the American Tennis Association ATA the governing body of black ...


Michelle S. Hite

professional tennis player and professional golfer. Althea Gibson was born to Annie Bell Gibson and Daniel Gibson on a cotton farm in Silver, South Carolina. Her family settled in Harlem when Gibson was three years old. Constantly on the move, Gibson wandered her neighborhood streets in search of an outlet for her boundless energy.

The obvious talent Gibson exhibited at the Harlem River Tennis Courts, where she trained with the saxophonist Buddy Walker, led to a meeting with the illustrious American Tennis Association (ATA) champion Fred Johnson. The ATA governed competition for black players categorically excluded from white sporting organizations like the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA). With Johnson as her coach, Gibson earned early success in the 1942 New York State Open Championship Following this victory she competed in her first ATA national tournament where she made it to the finals She won the girls ATA ...



For information on:

Beginnings of golf as an African American sport: See Sports and African Americans.

African and African American: See Elder; Gibson; Woods.



Karen Jean Hunt

African American women’s interest in golf began in the early part of the twentieth century. Most of the women had been taught to play by their husbands or fathers. Although there were few opportunities to play professional golf, Marie Thompson, of Chicago, Illinois, became the first African American woman to win a major tournament. On Labor Day weekend in 1926, Thompson won the first Negro National Open, the premier golfing event for African Americans, at the Mapledale Country Club in Stow, Massachusetts. The United States Colored Golf Association (USCGA) sponsored the competition, which offered a place for talented African Americans to compete at a time when they were not allowed to do so in white tournaments. In 1929 the USCGA changed its name to the United Golf Association UGA Although African American women were originally allowed to participate in the National Open championship a separate women s ...



Wesley Borucki

Few African Americans have starred in the professional ranks of golf compared to their Euro-American counterparts (Tiger Woods could be seen as the obvious exception), but nonetheless they have made many contributions to the game as players and even caddies. Those competitors excluded for decades from competition on the PGA Tour formed their own tour, a training ground for those who would go on to integrate the tour.

Important African American contributions to golf date back to the 1800s. Dr. George Franklin Grant, a Boston dentist, received a patent for wooden golf tees in 1899, but he never marketed them. Sporting goods manufacturer Spalding profited from his invention in the 1920s, well after Grant's death. The first African American professional golfer, John Shippen, competed in the 1896 U S Open at Shinnecock Hills Country Club in New York where he caddied and learned golf from ...


Paul Devlin

professional golfer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, one of nine children, to Dennis Peete and Irene Bridgeport. When he was eleven, his parents split up and he was sent to live with his grandmother in rural Hayti, Missouri, supposedly temporarily. Instead Peete and two of his sisters ended up there permanently, eventually abandoned by their mother. A future master of a game played in a pastoral setting, Peete wished he was out of the countryside and back in Detroit. At the age of twelve he fell out of a tree and shattered his left elbow. Though he received proper medical attention, he would never be able to fully straighten his left arm. It is widely believed, however, that this misfortune proved to be a great advantage in his golf career.

Arguably the straightest hitter in golf history and a star of the 1980s Peete who suffered from Tourette ...


Kate Tuttle

Gary Player may be not only the greatest golfer from South Africa but one of the greatest golfers of all time. He has won more than 100 major international titles and is one of only four men to win each of the game’s four major professional tournaments. After a difficult childhood—his mother died when he was eight years old, and his father, a gold miner, barely made enough to live on—he learned to play golf on a local course and turned professional in 1953. Four years later he entered the United States Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) circuit. Player’s long roster of victories includes the British Open (1959, 1968, 1974), the U.S. PGA (1962, 1972), the U.S. Open (1965), and the Masters (1961, 1974, 1978 In addition he won the South African Open thirteen times and the ...


Jeremy Rich

professional golfer and businessman, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 1 November 1935, the son of Muriel (maiden name unknown) and Harry Player. His father worked in a gold mine beginning at age thirteen, and later became a professional golfer. Player has recalled that his mother was a major influence on her son, and that she encouraged him to show respect toward others. Cancer took her life when Player was only eight years old, a loss he felt deeply well into adulthood. As a child Player idolized cowboy heroes from American television western series like Have Gun, Will Travel and eventually adopted the dark sartorial look of that show s hero Paladin on the golf course Wearing a shirt pants and cap Player later gloried in the nickname The Black Knight It took some convincing by Harry Player for his son to focus on golf rather ...


Gregory Travis Bond

golfer, was born Charles Luther Sifford in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of six children of Roscoe Sifford, a laborer, and Eliza. He was introduced to golf at the age of nine while working as a caddy at the local Carolina Country Club, where he learned the game during numerous early morning rounds. Sifford claimed his first title at a caddy's tournament in 1934, bringing home ten dollars and a case of Pepsi Cola. Financial difficulties and racial problems in Charlotte both on and off of the course forced him to drop out of his segregated high school during his junior year and move to live with an uncle in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1939. Sifford soon found a job as a shipping clerk for the National Biscuit Company, and he honed his golfing game at the public Cobbs Creek links.

During World War II Sifford served ...


Scott Sheidlower

professional golfer, was born Jimmy Lee Thorpe in Roxboro, North Carolina, the ninth child in a family of twelve children, to Elbert Thorpe Sr. and his wife, Vivian. Although not related to him, Thorpe was named after the Native American Olympian Jim Thorpe, who won gold medals representing the United States in the pentathlon and decathlon in 1912 in Stockholm, Sweden. Hence, he is best known as Jim Thorpe.

The senior Thorpe was a greenkeeper in Roxboro at a country club The Thorpes lived in a small house near either the second or eighth fairway at the country club the sources being unclear as to which is correct One reason that Thorpe is such a good golfer is the fact that he is very muscular He first developed those muscles hauling mortar to help his father build the club s course greens While Thorpe and his siblings ...


Sholomo B. Levy

golfer, was born Eldrick Woods to Earl Woods, a retired army lieutenant colonel who had been the first black baseball player at Kansas State University, and Kultida Punsawad, a native of Thailand and army secretary who met Earl when he was stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Kultida chose the name Eldrick because it begins with the first initial of Earl's name and ends with the first initial of her name. The fusion of identities thus symbolized by his name would have far-reaching influences on the boy's life. The sobriquet Tiger was chosen by Earl in honor of his army buddy Colonel Nguyen Phong, whom Earl nicknamed Tiger because of his courage. Earl, who had three children from a previous marriage, married Kultida in 1969 while he was based at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn New York He was forty two years old and three months shy ...