Sifford Makes History Again
Charlie Sifford waved his crystal trophy before the crowd gathered in front of the World Golf Hall of Fame, unable to contain his smile.
Moments later, when he looked out at Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and other Hall of Famers who celebrated his historic induction Monday night, Sifford bowed his head and softly tapped the podium with his fist, squeezing his eyes as he choked back tears.
“This makes me feel like I’m a worthwhile professional golfer,” Sifford said.
A man whose autobiography defined his career -- “Just Let Me Play” -- took his place among golf’s greatest figures when Sifford became the first black person inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Joining Sifford in a diverse class of inductees was Canadian amateur Marlene Stewart Streit; Japanese star Isao Aoki; and former U.S. Open champion Tom Kite.
Sifford, 82, risked ridicule and threats breaking through the Caucasian-only clause on the PGA, finally rescinded in 1961 after Sifford became the first black person on tour.
Sifford paid tribute to Teddy Rhodes and Bill Spiller, who paved the way for him in the blacks-only United Golf Association; to Lee Elder, who became the first black person to play in the Masters in 1975; and to Calvin Peete, Jim Dent and Jim Thorpe, blacks who later succeeded on the PGA Tour.
“Charlie’s induction reminds us how far we have come as a country and a game,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said. “But it also reminds us how far we have to go.”