Joe Louis - Professional Golf

Professional Golf

One of Louis's other passions was the game of golf, in which he also played a historic role. He was a long-time devotee of the sport since being introduced to the game before the first Schmeling fight in 1936. Similar to subsequent black athletes such as Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, Louis was also known to mix gambling with his golf game. In 1952, Louis was invited to play in the San Diego Open on a sponsor's exemption, becoming the first African American to play a PGA Tour event. Initially, the PGA of America was reluctant to allow Louis to enter the event, having a bylaw at the time limiting PGA participation to Caucasians. However, Louis's celebrity eventually pushed the PGA toward removing the bylaw, paving the way for the first generation of African-American professional golfers such as Calvin Peete. Louis himself financially supported the careers of several other early black professional golfers, such as Bill Spiller, Ted Rhodes, Howard Wheeler, Clyde Martin and Charlie Sifford. He was also instrumental in founding The First Tee, a charity helping underprivileged children become acquainted with the game of golf. His son, Joe Louis Barrow, Jr., currently oversees the organization.

In 2009, the PGA of America granted posthumous membership to Ted Rhodes, John Shippen and Bill Spiller, who were denied the opportunity to become PGA members during their professional careers. The PGA also has granted posthumous honorary membership to Louis.

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Professional Golf

For information about professional golf see:

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  • Professional Golfers Association, an introductory page about professional golf bodies.
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