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USGA men and women who broke down golf’s barriers

John Shippen

Founded in 1894, the United States Golf Association is woven into the fabric of the game here in America. It’s rare when a nearly 130-year-old organization makes history, but that’s precisely what the USGA did last week with the election of its new president.

Fred Perpall will serve a three-year term as the 67th president of the governing body, where he will lead the USGA Executive Committee, an all-volunteer, policy-making board that provides strategic direction and oversight to the association’s full-time staff. The significance? He’s the first Black man to hold the position.

After his nomination and subsequent election, Perpall is the latest to add his name to a long list of individuals who have broken down barriers for the good of the game through the USGA. From the figures preserved through the collections at the USGA Golf Museum and Library to modern day champions, celebrate Black History Month and get to know a little more about some of the most notable pioneers in the game.

Shippen became the first Black man to compete in a USGA championship at the 1896 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Golf Club, where he finished in sixth place. Then-USGA President Theodore Havemeyer defended the participation of Shippen, as well as Shinnecock tribe member Oscar Bunn, which set a standard of inclusion for years to come.

Shippen’s legacy lives on with the John Shippen National Golf Invitational, where a PGA Tour exemption is up for grabs. (Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Known as the first Black professor at Harvard University, Dr. Grant also patented the first wooden tee in 1899. One of the USGA’s most notable acquisitions of 2022 was a replica wooden tee created by Dr. Grant.

Wooden Tee

Dr. George Grant’s Golf Tee at USGA Headquarters in Liberty Corner, N.J. on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (Copyright USGA/Jonathan Kolbe)

Chicago Women’s Golf Club became the first all-Black organization to join the USGA as a member club in 1956. Gregory, a CWGC member, was allowed entry into that year’s U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Women’s Amateur and became the first black woman to compete in a USGA championship.

Ann Gregory

Ann Gregory. (Photo: Courtesy USGA Archives)

Just three years later, Wright became the first Black man to win a USGA championship at the 1959 U.S. Amateur Public Links at Wellshire Golf Course in Denver, Colorado. Wright never trailed in any of his matches.

1959 U.S. Public Links Championship

Bill Wright after he…


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