Charlie Sifford, who broke golf’s color barrier as the first black PGA Tour member in 1961, died Tuesday night after recently suffering a stroke. He was 92.

Sifford was the first African-American to play in a PGA-sanctioned event after he successfully challenged the organization to end its "Caucasian-only clause." Sifford, often referred to as “the Jackie Robinson of golf,” went on to win two PGA tournaments, the Greater Hartford Open in 1967 and Los Angeles Open in 1969. He played in over 400 PGA events and later won the 1975 Senior PGA Championship.

President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sifford in November. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer are the only other golfers to receive the medal considered the highest civilian honor. Sifford was also the first African-American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.

Tiger Woods’ father, Earl, became friends with Sifford while Woods was playing junior golf. Woods commented on the legacy of the late legend.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that without Charlie, and the other pioneers who fought to play, I may not be playing golf,” Woods wrote in an email to the Associated Press late last year. “My pop likely wouldn’t have picked up the sport, and maybe I wouldn’t have either.”

Sifford worked tirelessly to break the color barrier, hearing a barrage of racial slurs along fairways and receiving death threats during a tournament in 1961.

“His love of golf, despite many barriers in his path, strengthened him as he became a beacon for diversity in our game,” said PGA of America President Derek Sprague. “By his courage, Dr. Sifford inspired others to follow their dreams.  Golf was fortunate to have had this exceptional American in our midst.”

Sifford also received a 2006 honorary doctorate from University of St. Andrews in Scotland, often called “the home of golf.”

He was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1922 and grew up caddying and playing. Sifford eventually played his way onto the United Golf Association, a tour for black golfers, before breaking the PGA’s color barrier.

Many public figures expressed their admiration for Sifford following news of his passing:

Tiger Woods:
Actor Samuel L. Jackson:
Writer Rick Reilly:


Golf legend Gary Player: