The relevancy of Tiger Woods’ Masters win

The relevancy of Tiger Woods’ Masters win

The relevancy of Tiger Woods’ Masters win
April 11
20:15 2017

Nate Jackson | Staff Writer

I’ve always seen golf as an elitist leisure, something that C-level executives and their rich buddies indulge in to pass time and relieve stress. Golf is still very much that. With the stratification of power and wealth in our country, minority groups were mostly unable to afford the spare time to participate. In fact, they weren’t even allowed near country clubs to begin with. But as we become more familiar with American history, we know that those things were bound to change.

Have you ever taken a minute to wonder where golf came from? “Golf” is such a peculiar word. Its first mention was found in a document from March 6, 1457. In the early days of the sport, players attempted to hit pebbles over sand bunkers and around fairways using a bent club. It was advanced by royal endorsement, and officially became a sport when the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith formed a club in 1744 with Scottish judge Duncan Forbes drafting the rules.

Fast-forward to the creation of the Professional Golfers Association of America in February 1916. Their constitution and bylaws were signed by 35 charter members on April 10, 1916. For almost 30 years, the PGA of America’s bylaws disallowed people of color from membership. I’m not sure if any other professional sport was as blatantly racist. The bylaws were changed in 1960 when California attorney general Stanley Mosk threatened to ban the PGA from the state until the clause was removed.

Although African-Americans and other minorities were “technically” allowed to participate, resentment still lingered. The clause was removed in 1961, in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. Racial tensions in our country had never been higher. There had to be a brave soul, whose passion for the game would surmount the internal fear and external pressure that racism so often incites.

Enter World War II veteran Charlie Sifford, who dreamed of golfing professionally. His passion began as a child, caddying at a whites-only country club in Charlotte, North Carolina. He would play on days that the club reserved for caddies. He would often break par and by his mid-20s he became good enough to compete on a professional level. Sifford would go on to experience antagonism, but he took the blows and continued pursuing his dream. He eventually broke golf’s racial barrier, becoming the first black player in a PGA tour event.

This is significant because Sifford paved the way for a golfer we’re all pretty familiar with: Tiger Woods. This weekend was the 20th anniversary of his historic 1997 Masters win. Tiger was 21-years-old when he became the first African-American professional golfer to win the Masters. Not only did he win, but he shot 18 under par, which was record-breaking.

Throughout history, there have always been catalysts for change. Often times in sports, it’s someone who embodies the frustrations, hopes and dreams of people who feel as if they’re facing insurmountable odds. Just like the game of life, you play to leave a legacy of resilience and progression.

Tiger Woods’ Masters win was a victory for us all – particularly those who wish to rid our institutions of prejudice and racism, and provide an even playing field for all who are capable. Thanks to those who are facing unconquerable situations with strength and courage. Without conflict or resistance, nothing great can or will be accomplished.

Featured Image: Antonio Mercado

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Nate Jackson

Nate Jackson

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