Charlie Sifford, First Black Tour Pro, to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Charlie Sifford, First Black Tour Pro, to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Charlie Sifford in 1962, the year after he earned his PGA Tour card.
Getty Images

Charlie Sifford, who became the first black player to earn his PGA Tour card in 1961, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Monday.

Sifford, 92, is one of 19 recipients of this year's award and joins Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as the only other golfers to receive the nation's highest civilian honor.

Tiger Woods hailed the news on Twitter Monday.

Sifford, a former caddy, won six National Negro Opens before the PGA of America revoked its "Caucasian-only" clause in 1961. He would grab two PGA Tour titles, the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 Los Angeles Open, en route to becoming the first black player to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.

Sifford faced frequent discrimination, harassment and even death threats as he sought to break golf's color barrier. In 2011, he told the Los Angeles Times' Bill Plaschke that spectators had kicked his ball into rough, buried it under trash and once filled the cup with feces before he arrived at the pin.

In the 1999 book, The Masters: Golf, Money, and Power in Augusta, Georgia, author Curt Sampson wrote: "Sifford shot 67 to lead the Canadian Open in '62. Shortly thereafter, according to Charlie, someone from Augusta called the clubhouse at Royal Montreal Golf Club. A sign was immediately posted on a bulletin board: 'The Masters golf tournament has announced that it will not offer an automatic invitation to the winner of this year's Canadian Open,' which it had in the past."

"Nothing bothered me, nothing stopped me," Sifford says. "I wasn't just trying to do this for me, I was trying to do it for the world."

President Obama will present the awards in a ceremony at the White House on Nov. 24.

"From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world," Obama said in a press release.

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