Albert Crews on the Rise With a Tiger in His Tank

By Grant Wittenwyler
Updated: January 17, 2006

Pictured Albert Crews

Pictured Albert Crews

DENVER, COLORADO Albert Crews is a Baptist minister and former concrete mason. At 49 years old, Crews is ready to debut his cross-handed grip on the Senior PGA tour.

Crews, who comes from Homer, Louisiana, may be a man slight in stature, but he plays a powerful game, and has played a powerful role in the game.

Twenty years ago, playing golf was practically unheard of for young African American males in northwest Louisiana. The Crews brothers were made to believe that the local nine-hole course where they had caddied as kids was a whites-only, private club. When they learned that it was actually a city-owned, public facility, and began to play there, they were often accused of not depositing money in the green fee box prior to teeing off.

Crews and an African American partner finally broke the color barrier in 1989 by winning an annual two-man team event in a sudden-death playoff. “There were so many golf carts following us…When we wrapped it up on the third hole, nobody applauded or cheered. They just turned their golf carts around and drove back to the clubhouse,” said Crews.

Slowly it began to turn around. Then, three and a half years ago on a cold, dank Saturday morning in November of 1997, Albert Crews stashed his golf bag in the luggage compartment of a Greyhound bus near his hometown of Homer and began what was to be the ride of his life. Crews arrived in Orlando, Florida, in time for Sunday church services, then bunked down on a couch in the apartment of family friends. On Monday, he arose before dawn, slung his golf bag over his shoulder, and hitchhiked more than 20 miles to Ridgewood Lakes Golf and Country Club to compete in an event on the Forty-Plus Tour. At the course, Crews turned heads the moment he whipped out his Big Bertha driver. Standing at 5-foot-7 and weighing no more than 145 pounds, Crews was the only African American in the field. He also happened to be the only pro sporting a cross-handed grip. What’s more amazing is that he proceeded to win the tournament with a two-under-par, 142 total. He also captured his next two Forty-Plus events.

While Tiger Woods benefited from first-class support and coaching since childhood, Crews is entirely self-taught. He abandoned the game as a teenager in favor of football, track, and baseball, but at age 25, he was reintroduced to the game. Naturally left handed, he could only find right-handed clubs. “I kept my game (baseball) batting grip and swung from the other side…By the time I came up to the eighth tee, I was hooked. I knew golf was what I wanted to do, ” explained Crews.

It is tempting, yet somewhat unfair, to cast Crews as a middle-aged, blue-collar counterpart to Tiger Woods. In addition to breaking race barriers, as Woods has done, Crews, with an even slighter frame and crowding 50, routinely launches Tiger-like drives of 300-plus yards. “I have never been so consistently out-driven by so many yards, ” says Buddy Garner, who regularly competes against Senior and PGA Tour veterans. “And the amazing thing is that Albert also has Tiger’s touch around the greens.”

Albert Crews is rapidly emerging as the most colorful, new folk hero attempting to make the Senior PGA Tour. “I am going to compete one way or the other. I have never given up on anything I want to pursue. That’s just the way it is.”

His tone makes believers out of all within earshot.