Black History Month Obscure Fact #22

Despite Tiger Woods iconic status, it’s safe to say the Professional Golf Association hasn’t always been in love with African-Americans.
One of the first African-Americans to play in the PGA was Dewey Brown. He became a member of the PGA in 1928. Brown learned the game as a caddie and became a renowned club designer and teacher during the 1920s and 30s. He even crafted a set of clubs for President Warren G. Harding. In 1934, the PGA terminated Brown’s membership because they found out he was African-American. During the six years he was a member, everyone assumed he was white because of his light skin color.

Brown was not the only black American in the golf world in the early part of last century. George Grant, a dentist from Boston, designed the first golf tee registered by the United States Patent Office in 1899. John Shippen was the first black American to play in the United States Open, in 1896, even though some competitors threatened to withdraw. And Joseph Bartholomew, a noted architect, designed and built more than a half-dozen golf courses in the New Orleans area. But because he was black, Bartholomew was not allowed to play on the courses he built.

(Sources: Brown, Clifton “Members Only” The New York Times, 20 Dec. 1998; “Forbidden Fairways: African Americans and the Game of Golf,” by Calvin H. Sinnette. Sleeping Bear Press, 1998; Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewey_Brown)

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