Charlie Sifford and Renee Powell both spoke of the barriers and struggles they faced as African Americans who wanted to excel in golf. They each took on that challenge with strengths that earned them status at the highest levels of the professional game.
Now they are joined one more time in a new endeavor by the World Golf Hall of Fame. On the 27th anniversary on Monday of Sifford’s induction into the Hall, the organization announced that Powell will be the first recipient of the Charlie Sifford Award.
The award, the Hall said, “honors an individual who personifies Sifford’s groundbreaking achievements through perseverance, confidence, respect and adaptability. Powell—the second African American woman to ever compete on the LPGA Tour—demonstrated resilience amidst her own obstacles of racial adversity and segregation and dedicated her life to making golf a sport for all.”
The award, presented by Southern Company, will be given to Powell as part of the Hall of Fame’s 2022 induction ceremony on March 9 during the PGA Tour’s Players Championship week. Tiger Woods, Susie Maxwell Berning, Tim Finchem and Marion Hollins are the four inductees.
Powell, 75, competed as a member of the LPGA from 1967 to 1980, playing in more than 250 pro events. Since 1995 she has served as the head PGA/LPGA professional at Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio. The club was established in 1946 by her father, William Powell, as the first U.S. golf course designed, built, owned and operated by an African American. The club’s non-profit Clearview Legacy Foundation focuses on education, preservation, and research, with an emphasis on youth, minorities, veterans, seniors and other underrepresented groups.
“As a youngster my parents fought to get me into tournaments when I was not welcomed because of the color of my skin, which instilled in me how important it is to get young people into the game to help build their self-confidence,” Powell said in a statement. “I’m honored to be the first recipient of this award and to see Charlie Sifford be recognized for breaking down barriers that never should have been put in front of him and all others of color who strived to play this game. I was taught early on by my parents that golf should be a sport for everyone, and we can all diversify this game in so many ways.”
Sifford, who died in 2015, turned pro in 1948 but was excluded from playing on the PGA Tour until 1961, when he became the first African American to compete as a member. He won twice on tour and finished in the top 60 on the money list in each of his first nine seasons as a member. Sifford was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.