Charlie Sifford, first black on PGA Tour, dies at 92

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Charlie Sifford, first black on PGA Tour, dies at 92
Charlie Sifford broke down golf's color barrier in 1961. He won two PGA Tour championships and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 24: Former professional golfer Dr. Charles L. 'Charlie' Sifford reacts after being presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom during an East Room ceremony at the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/PGA of America via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 24: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former professional golfer Dr. Charles L. 'Charlie' Sifford (R) during an East Room ceremony at the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/PGA of America via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 24: Former professional golfer Dr. Charles L. 'Charlie' Sifford reacts as he is introduced by U.S. President Barack Obama during a Presidential Medal of Freedom presentation ceremony at the East Room at the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/PGA of America via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 24: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former professional golfer Dr. Charles L. 'Charlie' Sifford (R) during an East Room ceremony at the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/PGA of America via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 24: Former professional golfer Dr. Charles L. 'Charlie' Sifford listens to U.S. President Barack Obama speak during a Presidential Medal of Freedom presentation ceremony at the East Room at the White House November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/PGA of America via Getty Images)
AKRON, OH - AUGUST 05: Charlie Sifford, member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, poses for a portrait prior to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on the South Course at Firestone Country Club on August 5, 2009 in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
ST AUGUSTINE, FL - NOVEMBER 02: PGA Hall of Fame golfer Arnold Palmer (R) and Charlie Sifford at the World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremonys on November 2, 2009 in St Augustine, Florida. Palmer is making the induction address for former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images for the World Golf Hall of Fame)
SAVANNAH, GA - APRIL 20: Charlie Sifford tees off on #1 during the final round the Demaret Division at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa on April 20, 2010 in Savannah, Georgia. (Photo by Chris Condon/US PGA TOUR)
UNITED STATES - MAY 02: Walter Morgan and Charlie Sifford during the 57th Senior PGA Championship held at PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Wednesday, April 17, 1996. (photograph by The PGA of America). (Photo by Montana Pritchard/PGA of America via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 18: Charlie Sifford competes in the Demaret competition during the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa in Savannah, Georgia, on April 18, 2006. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 18: Charlie Sifford and Joe Jimenez compete in the Demaret competition during the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa in Savannah, Georgia, on April 18, 2006. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA)
AKRON, OH - AUGUST 19: Charlie Sifford, the first Afican-American to play on the PGA Tour, watches Tiger Woods during the second round of the NEC Invitational at the Firestone Country Club on August 19, 2005 in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
17 Apr 1997: Charlie Sifford looks on during the Senior''s Championship in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport
17 Apr 1997: Charlie Sifford hits the ball during the Senior''s Championship in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport
4 Mar 1995: Charlie Sifford watches the ball fly during the FHP Health Care Classic at the Ojai Valley Inn in Ojai, California. Mandatory Credit: J.D. Cuban /Allsport
Mar 1995: Charlie Sifford follows through on a drive in the FHP Health Classic at the Ojai Inn Country Club in Ojai, California. Mandatory Credit: J.D. Cuban /Allsport
Mar 1995: Charlie Sifford studies a shot in the FHP Health Classic at the Ojai Inn Country Club in Ojai, California . Mandatory Credit: J.D. Cuban /Allsport
Charlie Sifford at the Nissan Open (Photo by PGA TOUR Archive/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
Charlie Sifford at the Nissan Open (Photo by PGA TOUR Archive/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
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Charlie Sifford, who only wanted a chance to play and broke the color barrier in golf as the first black PGA Tour member, died Tuesday night, the PGA of America said.

Sifford, who recently had suffered a stroke, was 92. Details of his death and funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

PGA of America President Derek Sprague called Sifford "an uncommon and faithful servant."

"His love of golf, despite many barriers in his path, strengthened him as he became a beacon for diversity in our game," Sprague said. "By his courage, Dr. Sifford inspired others to follow their dreams. Golf was fortunate to have had this exceptional American in our midst."

A proud man who endured racial taunts and threats, Sifford set modest goals and achieved more than he imagined.

Sifford challenged the Caucasian-only clause and the PGA rescinded it in 1961. He won the Greater Hartford Open in 1967 and the Los Angeles Open in 1969. He also won the 1975 Senior PGA Championship, five years before the Champions Tour was created.

His career was fully recognized in 2004 when he became the first black inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Last November, President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are the only other golfers who received that honor.

"Charlie won tournaments, but more important, he broke a barrier," Nicklaus once said. "I think what Charlie Sifford has brought to his game has been monumental."

The one goal that eluded him was a chance to play in the Masters, which did not invite its first black player until Lee Elder in 1975. Sifford remained bitter, though the pain was eased when Tiger Woods won the first of his four green jackets in 1997.

Woods often has said he would not have played golf if not for Sifford and other black pioneers.

"It's not an exaggeration to say that without Charlie, and the other pioneers who fought to play, I may not be playing golf," Woods said in an email to The Associated Press late last year. "My pop likely wouldn't have picked up the sport, and maybe I wouldn't have either."

The road was never easy.

Sifford was born on June 22, 1922 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He worked as a caddie and dominated the all-black United Golfers Association, winning five straight national titles. He longed to play against the best players, only to run into the same barriers that Teddy Rhodes and Bill Spiller faced - the Caucasian-only clause.

In his autobiography, "Just Let Me Play," Sifford told of meeting Jackie Robinson in California about the time Robinson was trying to break the color barrier in baseball.

"He asked me if I was a quitter," Sifford wrote. "I told him no. He said, `If you're not a quitter, you're probably going to experience some things that will make you want to quit.'"

During the 1952 Phoenix Open, one of the few events that blacks could play, Sifford found human feces in the cup when he got to the first green. He received death threats over the phone at the 1961 Greater Greensboro Open and heard racial slurs as he walked the fairways. He finished fourth, and didn't quit.

He was beloved my some of golf's biggest stars, including Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

During his induction ceremony, Sifford told of his first meeting with Palmer. They were playing in the 1955 Canadian Open and Sifford opened with a 63 to lead Palmer by one shot. He recalled Palmer standing in front of the scoreboard saying, "Charlie Sifford? How the hell did he shoot 63?"

"I'm standing right behind him," Sifford said. "I said, `The same damn way you shot 64.' That's how we met."

Sifford also received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland for his career as a pioneer.

He often attended the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, not far from his home in Ohio. During an interview with the AP in 2000, Sifford said he was proud of the role in played in making the PGA Tour accessible to blacks.

"If I hadn't acted like a professional when they sent me out, if I did something crazy, there would never be any blacks playing," he said. "I toughed it out. I'm proud of it. All those people were against me, and I'm looking down on them now."



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