Chasing The Green Jacket Rarely Getting The Chance

Updated: November 16, 2007




If you’re a Sports Fan

it’s difficult not to be

drawn into the Excitement

of the Masters

Golf the only sport of widespread appeal in which you compete against yourself. And Golf the sport played in the most inviting settings. Bucolic surroundings. It is clearly a Sport with a natural appeal for many as players and fans. But once again this past weekend at the Ultimate Golf Tournament we saw another side of Golf.

As we always do.

About 100 of the world’s pro golfers as usual received precious invitations to play in the Tournaments of Tournaments. At Augusta National. Golf’s Cathedral. The most sacred place in the universe of Golf. At this the 70th Annual Masters.

In this large field once again as there have been for almost a decade, 2 Black Pros competed. The very same 2 Black pros over the decade. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh. One who refers to himself as of “mixed racial heritage” and Singh a Black skinned Fiji Islander from far away in the middle of the Pacific.

And both have won the Green Jacket

Woods 4 times, Singh once

Yet their success highlights the failure of Golf to integrate and more so at this the high point of the annual golf calendar. Which brings us to the history of the Masters which resisted having any Black golfer in the Tournament until 1975. And other than Woods and Singh only 2 other Black Golfers have ever played in the Masters. And from the perspective of personal identity the only 2 fully African Americans.

It was not until the early 1970s that any discussion surfaced in the American media about the complete absence of Black golfers from the Masters. And it can be argued superficially anyway that the members and managers of Augusta National were not responsible for their absence. Or exclusion.

This is how Clifford Roberts the co-founder of Augusta National put it as reported in the Augusta Chronicle on April 8, 1971, ” Black athletes have been outstanding in various fields of sports, including baseball, football, basketball, and the Olympic games. They have been not only outstandingly capable, but also outstandingly popular with the general public … As soon as black golfers make the same effort in golf as they have in other fields of athletics, we’ll have black golfers here. Few have made a serious effort to play tournament golf.”

In other words Roberts argument was

it’s not us it is

stripped to its Core it’s

institutional racism

‘ not our fault ‘

Racism that by the way was codified back in 1943 when the PGA placed in its by-laws what had been an unwritten rule since its founding in 1916, in 1943 became a formal clause restricting PGA membership and PGA tournaments to ” Caucasians only.” The Formal Exclusion had largely been abandoned by the 1970s with 12 African Americans on the Tour Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder among them.

Indeed far more than Today.

Now Clifford Roberts, and many other opinion leaders of the day could agree with his statements with a “clear conscience.” They were making no overt decisions to prevent African Americans. It “simply” was a matter there were so few Blacks on the PGA Tour and not one of them had “qualified” to be invited to the Masters.

And that is in fact absolutely no different than current Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson’s view of Reality. Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh play and are welcome with open arms ( if you want to get crazy about it ) because they qualify to be invited. What Clifford Roberts never said and what Hootie Johnson never says is that there is an inherent problem for Golf with so little Black participation.

Let’s be precise here ….

Other than multi-racial Tiger Woods and Fijian Vijay Singh only TWO other Black golfers have ever played in a Masters Tournament. Lee Elders became the very first in 1975 when he automatically qualified by winning an event then called the Monsanto Open in the Spring of 1974. So that ….

Finally on April 10, 1975 Lee Elder stepped onto the Greens at Augusta National and made history. In the 39th Masters Elder became the First African American to play. Elders went on to play in 8 Masters. The only other African American to play in the Masters was an excellent pro named Calvin Peete who qualified in 1986 at 42.

Here is how Calvin Peete described the Masters

in an article in the New York Times April 13, 1983

He was asked how he felt about the traditions of the Masters. ” The traditions were made by newspapermen,” he said. ”Until Lee Elder, the only blacks at the Masters were caddies or waiters. To ask a black man what he feels about the traditions of the Masters is like asking him how he feels about his forefathers who were slaves.”


And that is the Story

In the 70 year history of the most famous golf course in the world which hosts the most important and most followed golf tournament on Earth 4 Black golfers have ever competed only 2 who can claim ( or will ) to be African American. And while Woods and Singh will continue to play in the Masters for years to come, and Woods will probably win more Masters and be a dominant force for another Decade or more …..

There is not a single other Black pro

more to the point African American

on the Horizon for the Masters

some may call the current situation


We’ll call it

Institutionalized Racism

that must End