Ann Gregory, who broke color barriers in golf, won more than 300 golf tournaments, including four United Golfers Association national women’s championships. She also won titles in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Spain.
Ann Gregory with boxing legend Joe Louis prior to playing in a tournament.
By Rhonda Glenn, USGA, USGA
Two former PGA Tour players and the runner-up in a USGA national championship who helped break segregation barriers were inducted Saturday into the National Black Golf Hall of Fame.
Adrian Stills of Pensacola, Fla., Tom Woodard of Littleton, Colo., and the late Ann Gregory of Gary, Ind., were inducted into the hall of fame, which was established by the late Harold Dunovant in 1986.
U.S. Congressman James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, an avid golfer, was the keynote speaker at the induction ceremonies.
It was Clyburn’s concern for American youths that prompted him to insert an earmark in a defense bill that provided funds to start The First Tee programs in U.S. military installations. Today, there are more than 100 such programs.
“Our young people have challenges they’ve never had before and I can think of no better tool (to help them) than golf,” Clyburn said.
Clyburn said that it’s important to involve more African Americans in the game today, noting that only one African American, Tiger Woods, plays on the PGA Tour today, compared to 13 black players some 40 years ago.
“If we don’t intercede now to reverse some of the trends, we’re going to relive experiences that we thought were behind us,” he said. “Let us think about what we can do to reverse those trends.”
In 1956, Gregory became the first African-American woman to play in a USGA national championship when she competed in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Although she lost in the first round of match play that year, Gregory went on to compile a distinguished USGA record. In 1971, she was runner-up in the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur.
Gregory won more than 300 golf tournaments, including four United Golfers Association national women’s championships. She also won titles in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Spain.
In the early 1960s, Gregory was restricted to playing a course for black golfers at Gary’s South Gleason Park. She demanded access to the public course reserved for white golfers.
“I want to play the big course,” Gregory said as she paid her green fee. “My tax money helps pay for this course. If you don’t like it, send the police out to get me.”
She was allowed to play and the course never again prohibited black golfers.
Joanne Gregory Overstreet, Gregory’s daughter, spoke of her mother’s induction into the hall of fame. “As proud as we are of her golf achievements, we are equally proud of her pioneering in civil rights and community volunteer service,” Overstreet said.
Adrian Stills, an All-American at South Carolina State University in 1978 and 1979, was also inducted into the hall of fame. Stills turned professional and won 20 mini-tour events before he earned his card at the PGA Tour Qualifying School in 1985. Stills was the last African American to reach the PGA Tour via qualifying school until Joseph Bramlett qualified 25 years later, in 2010.
Stills founded The First Tee of North West Florida. He is director of golf operations and head professional at Osceola Golf Course in Pensacola, Fla.
Stills credited his late parents, Roy and Leila Mae Stills, for providing him with inspiration. “The example my parents laid out for me,” Stills said. “Everything they did, they did with passion. I think about them all the time.”
Tom Woodard attended the University of Colorado and in 1978 became the first black player to be named an NCAA Division I All-American. After playing on the PGA Tour in 1981 and 1984, he landed his first head professional’s job at Denver’s City Park Golf Course, where he had learned to play. He went on to become Denver’s director of golf, supervising operations at eight courses.
Woodard founded The First Tee of Denver, where the youth learning center is named for him. He is now the director of golf for the Foothills Park and Recreation District in Littleton, Colo.
Woodard, like Stills, credited much of his success to people who helped him along the way. Maceo Rutherford, a retired postal worker, met Woodard when he was a caddie and still in high school.
“He told me he wanted me to be the first African American to receive an Evans scholarship,” Woodard said. “I asked him what I had to do, and he mentioned I had to be in the top 25 percent of my class and the other qualifications.”
With Rutherford’s support, Woodard indeed won a Charles “Chick” Evans Caddie Scholarship, the first black to be so honored.
Three African Americans who were part of golf’s family have died since the 2011 induction ceremony and all were honored on Saturday night. They were: Barbara Douglas, a Hall of Fame member and the first minority chairman of the USGA Women’s Committee; Dennis Burns, a professional who competed on mini-tours and was a well-known instructor for The First Tee; and Harold Dunovant Jr., the son of the hall of fame’s founder.
The Hall of Fame is held in conjunction with the Mid Winter Classic, a golf tournament for aspiring young professionals conducted by The Advocates, a group that assists and promotes African-American youths.
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