Professional Golfer Charlie Sifford. (Photo by Chuck Burton, AP)

The latest news coming down the Fairways is the honor being given Charlie Sifford by the President.  I have to chuckle over the irony of this because according to Michael Jordan, President Obama would be in trouble if he had to make a three foot putt to break 100.

A lot of people are asking, “Who is Charlie Sifford?”  The answer is simple.  Charles Sifford is the Jackie Robinson of professional golf.  When I think of Sifford, I think of Lee Trevino.  Both were respected on the courses of their communities, but found that there was another word on the other side of the tracks.

Trevino and Sifford were among the elite in the world of hustlers, often playing $20 matches when they didn’t have bus fare in their wallets.  However in 1961, Charlie was allowed to cross the tracks.  This was a whole different world from working as a caddie for 60 cents a day.  And, the bulk of this money went to his Mom to help make ends meet.

Charlie had one impossible goal.  He wanted to play on the PGA Tour.  However, there was a clause in the PGA Charter citing that the events were for “Whites Only.”  Charlie was witness to the failures of Bill Spider and Teddy Rhodes as they crashed against the wall guarded by Jim Crow.

As he toiled in vain to cross the color line, Charlie was dominating the Colored World of Golf.  He dominated the Negro National Open winning the event six times.  During this period he befriended such notables as Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Don Newcombe and Jackie Robinson.  Jackie offered this as advice, “You have got to have thick skin; you can’t be a quitter.”

My Pop never got close to Charlie, but he was a fan.  He followed his progress with the eye of a writer and a wannabe golfer.  I can remember when Shell aired “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf.”  This TV event was a new form of entertainment designed to bring head to head play among the elite to the public.  When Charlie Sifford was invited, Sam was so excited he looked about to bust.  This was quite interesting coming from a man who very rarely showed emotion.

Charlie was pitted against Jack Nicklaus.  Jack cleaned his clock and the interview after the match set Sam off.  Charlie complained quite a bit about the condition of the golf course.  This prompted Sam to remind me that Charlie had been playing on courses where the grass was cut once a week.  This prompted me to remind him that Charlie stepped on that first tee with the weight of the entire Colored Community on his back. Sam decided to cut him some slack.

When you hear the expression, “He has come full circle,” it’s ok if you think of Charlie Sifford.  Here is a guy who worked on a golf course for 60 cents a day to having won over a million bucks in his career,  and now he is about to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Not too shabby.

If you are interested in a good read, Charlie’s book “Let Me Play” can satisfy your sweet tooth.