Charlie Sifford, the first black player to earn his PGA Tour card in 1961, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday. The 92-year-old was one of 19 recipients of the medal and just the third professional golfer to be granted the honor, following Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
Sifford, who resorted to playing in National Negro Opens because of the PGA Tour’s “Caucasian-only” policy, won six of those titles before being allowed to play on the Tour. He was routinely harassed, threatened and excluded from golf club amenities because of his race. The golfer who broke golf’s color barrier went on to win twice on the PGA Tour and was eventually inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.
“I wasn’t just trying to do this for me, I was trying to do it for the world,” Sifford has said.
Tiger Woods, who took to Twitter to sing Sifford’s praises when he was nominated for the award, posted a heartfelt message on his Instagram account.
At the ceremony, President Obama recounted a story where Sifford’s ball was kicked into the rough by spectators.
“Charlie’s laughing at that,” President Obama said, the crowd laughing along. “My ball is always in the rough.”
Sifford smiled humbly as the crowd applauded, Obama draping the medal around his neck. You can watch the full clip below.
This article was originally posted on Nov. 25, 2014.