Charlie Sifford: The Man Who Never Quit
One all-time champion pauses to recognize the incredible courage in another.
One day in 1959, Charlie Sifford had pounded his drive up the center of the 17th fairway. His swing was as sweet as ever. A swing that had already cut through so many years of hate, resentment and anger.
As we walked up the fairway, I caught a glimpse of something I had never seen on a golf course, despite growing up in apartheid South Africa, where you could be jailed for simply supporting a black man. A few spectators ran to Charlie’s golf ball and kicked it into the rough. Right there in front of everybody. I know Charlie felt that kick as if they had delivered it right to his gut. My blood boiled, but my heart ached. It was a message of pure hate, one following a racist slur shouted at Charlie just a one hole earlier.
This was more than 60 years ago, but I can still see Charlie walking into the scorer’s tent and slamming his hands on the wooden table. I can see the little piece of lead from the tip of his pencil breaking off and hurtling to the floor. I can see Charlie’s shoulders drop and hear his heavy exhale as he tried to find words.