Golf has a tradition of minority play dating back at least to the second U.S. Open, when John Shippen, an African-American who had helped build the club where the tournament was held, tied for fifth place. Prior to the match, a number of professionals threatened to withdraw if Shippen played, but USGA President Theodore Havemeyer told them to leave if they wanted to -- Shippen would play.
When he won the 1959 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, William A. Wright cemented his place in sports history as the first African-American to win a USGA championship. More black professionals came forward in the 1960s and 1970s, with Calvin Peete and Jim Thorpe emerging in the 1980s and early '90s as the black professionals who competed most regularly. Peete, who had to overcome the handicap of a left arm that would not fully extend, developed such consistency in his swing that others nicknamed him "Xerox." Thorpe, a former football player, became the first black man to lead any round of the U.S. Open. In 24 years on the PGA Tour, he logged $1.5 million in official PGA earnings. Today, Tiger Woods is arguably one of the greatest golfers in history, already having won 14 masters tournaments, to say nothing of his three straight U.S. Junior Amateurs and three straight U.S. Amateur Championships.
Women minorities have had a somewhat more difficult journey into golf. Ann Gregory, who played in numerous USGA championships and who lost the 1971 Senior Women's Amateur by only one stroke, began her career in 1956, shortly after the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She was followed by Althea Gibson, Eoline Thornton and Renee Powell, who also serves on the USGA committee.
Among Hispanics, Nancy Lopez stands out as the youngest woman inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame, and few could forget "Super Mex" Lee Trevino, ranked as the 14th-greatest golfer of all time by Golf Digest magazine, or Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodriguez, who won 30 tournaments, including 22 on the Champions Tour. Of course, golf is an international sport, and as such has many great players who are not minorities in their home country. For example, Lorena Ochoa, a Mexican golfer who retired at 28, was ranked No. 1 in the world during her final three years and racked up 27 wins during her final six years.
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