Charlie Sifford, the first African-American to break the color barrier in professional golf, paving the way for Tiger Woods and other minorities, died Tuesday at the age of 92 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Sifford’s appearance at the 1961 Greater Greensboro Open in his home state of North Carolina marked the first time a black golfer was allowed to play in a tournament sponsored by the Professional Golfers Association of America. He finished in fourth place, despite being harassed and threatened by hostile crowds along the course.
Sifford would go on to win two PGA Tour events in his career, as well as the 1975 Senior PGA Championship, and found himself compared to Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball’s first black player.
Sifford became the first African-American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last November from President Barack Obama. Obama praised Sifford as a trailblazer “who bent the arc of our nation towards justice.”
Sifford learned the game in his youth while carrying golf clubs for members at whites-only golf courses in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. He would eventually go on to win five national titles on a circuit that allowed black golfers before breaking into the PGA Tour.