When Terry Black and Fred MacFarlane were growing up in Southern California, the African-American experience had little connection to the game of golf. Today, as members of the SCGA Board of Directors, both men rejoice over the barriers that have come down and the inclusiveness that exists in the sport and throughout society.
Black (right) recalls being a business student at East Los Angeles in the early 1960s, and golf was a physical education requirement for the major. “I thought, ‘I don’t play golf,’” he said. “ ‘That’s a white man’s sport.’ ”
And why wouldn’t he reach such a conclusion, based on characterizations advanced by the media?
“Golf was becoming popular on television,” MacFarlane said of the same era. “You saw a little bit of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player. But you never saw any black golfers. Never saw them. Never heard about them. Never read about them.
“It wasn’t until the late-’60s, into the ’70s, that you began to understand: Who’s this Charlie Sifford? Where’d he come from? And he wasn’t a younger player at that point. Lee Elder. Why can’t he play in the Masters?”
As the nation celebrates Black History Month, Black and MacFarlane take pride in programs – such as the SCGA Foundation’s Youth on Course – that make golf more affordable to all young golfers, including minorities.
“As kids back then,” Black said, “we played basketball, football and baseball on the streets, and golf was more of an individual thing. They didn’t have the programs they have today to get youth involved. And for a blue-collar family, even if they did, they really couldn’t afford it. Golf was very expensive.”
The success of a player like Tiger Woods has helped broaden the game’s appeal, too. “That had a big impact among the youth,” Black said. “ ‘That’s someone who looks like me. I can do that.’ ”
I can do that. The phrase gained more viability in all aspects of African-American life with the success of the civil rights movement, said MacFarlane (left, with son Patrick). “You could have had stellar accomplishments in medicine, science, inventions or even sports, but if they go unknown, it’s as if they never happened,” he said. “Until the mid-’60s, that was the state and condition of black history generally.”
A seminal event was a TV special, “Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed,” which was hosted by Bill Cosby and aired by CBS in July 1968, just three months after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King. It recounted the work of many innovative figures in the African-American community.
People began to learn about Garrett Morgan, who invented the device that was the forerunner of the modern three-light traffic signal, and that of Dr. Charles Drew, a pioneer in blood collection and plasma processing who saved thousands of GI lives during World War II because of the extensive blood banks he developed.
“When people realize you notched accomplishments that can benefit society, the perception of a people changes,” MacFarlane said. “We’re talking about a legacy where servitude was the premise for African-Americans being in the United States, so black history is part of the overcoming of that history.
“People will ask all the time, Why do African-Americans need a month where it’s their history month? Why can’t it be we’re all Americans and we celebrate American history? Part of that is because for so long the history of African-Americans in American history was just not a thread woven into the storytelling of this country. We were nonexistent in the history books.
“We have [African-American] generations growing up, and it’s important for them to see hard work being done, and society is better because of the skill, hard work and accomplishments of people like themselves.”