Despite all the insults, Sifford lived up to the standard set by Robinson. Sifford fought his battle essentially alone; he didn’t have teammates. He broke barriers by breaking par. He won the National Negro Open five straight times from 1952-1956, all the while pushing golf’s color boundaries. Not until 1960, when he was 39, did he earn a PGA player card. A year later, under pressure from the California attorney general, the PGA of America, which then ran the Tour, dropped its “Caucasian only” membership clause.
Sifford’s best years already had passed, but he still won twice on the PGA Tour, at the 1967 Greater Hartford Open and the 1969 Los Angeles Open. “If you try hard enough,” Sifford said, “anything can happen.” Sifford, who won the 1975 PGA Seniors’ Championship, went on to become an original member of the Champions Tour, where he won the Suntree Classic.
In 2004, Sifford became the first black golfer to break into another exclusive club. Of the 100 previously enshrined at the World Golf Hall of Fame, none was black. He was selected via the Lifetime Achievement category for his contributions to the game. “Tonight we honor a man not just for what he accomplished on the course, but for the course he chose in life,” South African Gary Player said as he introduced his long-time friend at the induction ceremony in St. Augustine, Florida.
Better late, than never. That’s been the story of Charlie Sifford’s life. “Man, I’m in the Hall of Fame, the World Hall of Fame,” he said in his induction ceremony speech. “Don’t forget that now! I’m in the World Hall of Fame with all the players. That little old golf I played was all right, wasn’t it?”