St Andrews to honour civil rights pioneer

Thursday 15 June 2006

The University of St Andrews is to give an Honorary Degree to Charlie Sifford, the father of African American golf and the man whose career began the dismantling of racial barriers in the sport.

Mr Sifford (84) will travel to the home of golf next week where Scotland’s oldest University will confer upon him a Degree of Doctor of Laws in a ceremony at the town’s Younger Hall.

Prior to Mr Sifford’s Graduation, the University has arranged for him to visit and for the first time play the Old Course, St Andrews. A photocall will be held on the Swilcan Bridge, Old Course, St Andrews at 9 a.m. on Wednesday June 21st 2006. You are warmly invited to attend.

He will be made a Doctor of Laws by the University the following day Thursday June 22nd 2006 at a Graduation Ceremony beginning at 2.30 p.m.

Dr Brian Lang, Principal and Vice- Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, said:

“Charlie Sifford is a pioneer of the Civil Rights era whose career exemplifies courage, determination and the will to succeed in the face of substantial prejudice and adversity.

“He changed the landscape of sport and his story is one which should challenge and inspire us all.

“It is absolutely fitting that this man, his unique character, his dignity and his gift to golf should be honoured by St Andrews in St Andrews. We are delighted that he has accepted our offer of an Honorary Degree and will be with us at graduation.”

Charlie Sifford, whom Tiger Woods describes as his “honorary grandfather”, is an iron willed golf pro who spent his career fighting for inclusion.

He challenged the PGA’s Caucasian- only clause to become its first black member in 1960 at a time when the only blacks on tour were caddies. During his career he endured death threats, heard racial slurs shouted from the galleries, was refused entry to clubhouses and in the 1952 Phoenix Open found human faeces in the cup when he and partner Joe Louis got to the first green.

He won the Hartford Open in 1967 and two years later took the Los Angeles Open. He played 422 events on the PGA tour and made 399 cuts.

Although he was the top black player on tour in the 60s, he was never invited to play in the Masters.

He is travelling to Scotland with a group of young American golfers, courtesy of the Young Golfers of America Association which promotes education and reaches out to disadvantaged children, mostly minorities, through golf.

The University of St Andrews has a history of honouring sports personalities, particularly golfers, whose lives have been inspirational to others. It has previously conferred Honorary Degrees on Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie, Peter Thomson, Nick Faldo, Jack Nicklaus and Peter Alliss.

Issued by Beattie Communications on behalf of the University of St Andrews. Contact : Niall Scott, tel 01334 462244, mobile 07711 223062

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