The World Golf Hall of Fame has its newest award, and a deserving honoree, at that.
On Monday, the Hall of Fame announced the creation of the Charlie Sifford Award, which will honor recipients “for their spirit in advancing diversity in golf.” The award is the first of its kind from the Hall, named for Sifford, the PGA Tour’s first Black player and eventual recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Sifford, who died in 2015, competed for 13 years as a professional before finally breaking the Tour’s color barrier in 1961 — some 19 years after Jackie Robinson did the same in baseball. During the “Long, Hot Summer” of 1967, Sifford provided a touchpoint in a national conversation about race when he won his first PGA Tour event, the Greater Hartford Open, at age 45. Two years later, he won the L.A. Open en route to his eighth of nine straight years on the top-60 of the PGA Tour money list. All the while, Sifford endured a torrent of discrimination, abuse and institutional racism, persisting with support from Robinson and other prominent Black sports figures.
The Hall of Fame will honor one winner each year, selecting those who fit the criteria of personifying “Sifford’s groundbreaking achievements through perseverance, confidence, respect and adaptability.”
The Sifford Award’s inaugural recipient is Renee Powell, the second Black woman ever to compete on the LPGA Tour. After a successful professional career spanning more than a decade, Powell transitioned into instruction, becoming the head professional at Clearview Golf Club in Ohio. Clearview holds a unique place in golf history as the first Black designed, built, owned and operated course in the United States — a feat owed to Powell’s father, William. The course also helps run the Clearview Legacy Foundation, which focuses on using golf as a tool to reach underrepresented groups in the community.
“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 release. “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.”
Powell will receive the award, which is presented by Southern Company, as part of the Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony at the Players Championship in March.
The announcement came on Monday, the 17th anniversary of Sifford’s induction into the Hall.