NORTH EASTON, MA - “I started caddying when I was thirteen years old…to make money for my family…I wanted to play golf and I ain’t ever wanted to quit…and I would like it to be known, Little Charlie Sifford was an alright guy.” ~ Charlie Sifford, the first African American PGA player and first to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame
Charles Sifford. Ted Rhodes. Calvin Peete. Bill Spiller. Jim Thorpe. These are but a few of the iconic African American golf legends whose achievements may be known to some, but whose early struggles to even gain entrée onto the professional golf circuit may be eclipsed by the current renown of Tiger Woods and more recently, Joseph Bramlett. From 1934-1961, the Professional Golfers Association of America (the PGA) maintained a “Caucasian-only” clause in its constitution, thus denying these unmistakably talented golfers of color the right to play in PGA tournaments.
PAR, a special, limited edition book (hardcover, 104 pp., $95.00) featuring these trailblazing athletes, offers a collection of emotionally evocative and compelling black-and-white portraits shot by acclaimed photographer Michael Faye and created in collaboration with Dan Levinson and Robert Fernandez. At once capturing the epochal and the personal, Faye’s photographs transcend the world of the golf aficionado to enter the arena of civil rights, an era whose milestones may be pre-figured to some extent by these African American vanguards.
Together with the arrival of PAR, the U.S. Golf Association (USGA) Museum, located in Far Hills, New Jersey, has unveiled an exhibit of some of the book’s photographs, titled "A Passion for the Game: Portraits and Voices of the African-American Golf Experience," which will run from Feb. 1, 2011 through May 31, 2011.
Both the book and the exhibit trace their origins to Uneven Fairways, a documentary directed by Levinson, which he co-produced with Fernandez, and narrated by actor and avid golfer Samuel L. Jackson, that chronicles the history of the Negro Golf Leagues and the individuals who gained notoriety in this parallel circuit of courses and tournaments that they created for themselves.
"These were men and women whose passion for golf transcended any obstacles put before them. They are true American heroes," notes Levinson.
“Michael Faye’s poignant black-and-white photographs provided a perfect vehicle for the USGA Museum to highlight the African-American golf experience during a significant period of social change within our country. The images and personal reflections contained within the exhibit evoke the passion and courage these individuals faced and pay homage to their dedication to the game. We are pleased to be able to present this exhibit and to collaborate with Robert Fernandez and Dan Levinson,” comments Rand Jerris, Managing Director of the USGA Museum.
The USGA Museum is an educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation for the game of golf, its participants, and the Association. It serves as a caretaker and steward for the game’s history, supporting the Association’s role in ensuring the game’s future.