Carrying the mantle of trailblazers for black golf

Written by By Lisa Ryan, CNN

He’s arguably golf’s biggest ambassador and a trailblazer who spent more than six decades in the sport, but Charlie Sifford has done more than make history: he has been a force for change for countless black people throughout his life.

Now, a statue of the Grand Slam of Golf champion will be added to the Walk of Champions at the National Golf Links of America in Williamsburg, Virginia. The statue will join Sifford’s remarkable collection of memorabilia.

This will be the second statue to be unveiled in the Walk of Champions, the museum’s sculpture and historical sculpture park. The first statue to be dedicated to a legacy winner of golf’s Masters Tournament was honored in 2016.

A reception to honor the African-American figure will be held at the course on April 19, the day before the Masters gets underway. It is called the Charlie Sifford Day.

Charlie Sifford was a pioneer in golf. Credit: PGA TOUR/via Getty Images

“The fact that Charlie, even after nearly seven decades, is still making a difference is amazing,” Jeffrey W. Sammons, the National Golf Links of America’s senior vice president and general manager, said in a statement. “His contributions have had a tremendous impact on the history of the game and we believe the exhibit and statue will highlight his accomplishments and the spirit in which they were accomplished.”

This is not the first time Sifford has been recognized for his achievements. In 1980, the PGA Tour was created in association with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and he lobbied successfully to get his name added to the roll of honorees — the only one, to date, to have his name added on the starting list of events.

His now-retired legendary nickname — the Dreamer — was given to him by three-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange when Sifford won the Greater Hartford Open in 1960. The nickname became his own, with many players using the word and using it as a substitute for “sex.”

“I’ve lived my life as a walking miracle, having never really been in this position, but I have endured and have accepted that,” Sifford told the BBC last year. “I don’t mind walking away from something I love — win, lose or draw. I know that I am making the kind of life I want for myself.”

“What a wonderful gift that we at the National Golf Links of America have to be able to give to the public in honor of not only one of golf’s great champions but also one of the great Americans in every sense of the word,” Sammons said.

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