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Tiger In: Black Caddies Out

by Alton Maddox

When Blacks assemble en masse to applaud and salute a person of African ancestry for breaking the color line, history repeats itself. This has happened countless times in myriad endeavors. The common thread is the same modus operandi. Criminals have a modus operandi. A modus operandi allows for predictability.

When Lee Elder became the first Black golfer to participate at the Masters, in 1975 all Blacks in Augusta, GA were elated. In fact, Blacks were jumping for joy. They were still unaware that when a Black face enters a high place, other Blacks must pay the price for “me first”.

The PGA of America enforced a “Caucasian only clause” in its golf competition. Joe Louis, the legendary world heavyweight boxing champion, was introduced to this racial covenant in 1952 when he was invited to qualify for the PGA’s 1952 San Diego Open. Afterwards, he would become the most vocal advocate for putting this covenant to rest. It would be reversed in 1961.

Nonetheless, the revocation of this racial covenant in 1961 would have no immediate impact on the invitation list at the Masters. The Masters brain trust was bent on keeping the golf tournament lilly-white. Members of Congress including Ed Koch as well as UN Ambassador Andrew Young put pressure on the Masters to embrace Elder.

Denying that it practiced racial discrimination, the Masters, two years later, would open its doors to Elder who, unlike Joe Louis, never complained about racial discrimination in PGA golf tournaments. Elder would win the 1974 Monsanto Open in Pensacola, FL where he had been barred from the dressing room before playing golf. He had to dress in the parking lot.

Golf is a game for the white elite. It typically takes money to learn the game. Knowing that most Blacks are impoverished, whites never expected to confront Blacks as competitors on golf courses. They never envisioned Black caddies becoming professional golfers.

This door had to be sealed but it would take some time. Caddying had become an unintended apprenticeship program and an entrée for Blacks becoming professional golfers. Given the history of racism in golf, much care had to be given to shutting the door to Blacks.

The strategy was to seemingly yield to political pressure while developing a plan to seal golf’s back door. Most Blacks lack the financial means to enter the front door. Tiger Woods would be an unlikely exception thanks to his father, Earl Woods. In any event, there would be no opening of the golf floodgates to usher in Black professionals.

In 1983, the Masters would waive its practice of only allowing Augusta National caddies to advise white golf players and take care of their bags. A good caddy has to have a mastery of the game and also of the golf course. A good caddy could be the difference between winning and losing a golf tournament.

This would spell the death-knell for Black caddies who had been taking home some “hefty” wages during the Masters every April. In fact, one caddy sent his son to Princeton University. Blacks would celebrate the Monday after the Masters. Money would be flowing in Augusta’s Black community.

This maneuver killed two birds with one stone. The Black caddy became a dying breed on the PGA tour. Moreover, the number of Black professional golfers on the PGA tour today can now be counted on one hand. There was once at least 26 professionals including Elder, Charlie Sifford and Jim Dent.

Tiger Woods is hanging on by his fingernails only because of his ability to make money for white corporations. He is a protégé of Wilt Chamberlain and many other Black athletes. Tiger is more prejudiced than Sheriff Jim Clark of Selma, AL. All of Tiger’s “dolls” were white. Some of them have reportedly received hush money.

In fact, Justice Clarence Thomas, Tiger Woods, O.J. Simpson and Tikki Barber, among others, would have been perfect candidates for the NAACP’s doll test in Brown v. Board of Education to overthrow segregation in education.

Had they been asked to pick out the doll that looked bad, they would have unhesitatingly chose the brown doll. This self-rejection has given rise to added trauma in many Black men. Integration only aggravated self-hatred.

Tiger Woods is also opposed to hiring a Black caddy. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player may be racist but they are not prejudiced. Player even took Black golfers to South African during apartheid. During their careers, these men have had Black caddies.

Ben Crenshaw won the Masters in 1984 and 1995 with Carl Jackson, a Black caddy. Crenshaw attributed his success at the Masters to his Black caddy. Lee Trevino, who is Mexican, also had a Black caddy and he initially refused to join the PGA.

While most caddies today make more than $100,000 for a roughly 30- week work schedule, Woods’ caddy, Steve Williams, has earned millions. He gets a hefty cut of Woods’ earnings. This has allowed Williams to start his own charitable foundation. By 1998, there was only one Black caddy on the PGA tour for high profile golfers. The number today is zero.

I would love to peep Tiger’s 2010 census form. He probably had a problem with the race question. This is unfortunate. Dr. George F. Grant, a Black dentist, patented the wooden golf tee in 1899. The PGA posthumously honored three golf pioneers as members; namely, Ted Rhodes, John Shippen, and Bill Spiller. Honorary membership was posthumously awarded to Joe Louis.

Whites have given every descendant of enslaved Africans, a sentence of “civil death”. As long as Blacks mindlessly follow “Revs. Chicken Bone and Pork Chop” our fate is sealed. No other group can respect us for following buffoons.

We are financing and endorsing our own oppression. To a people who are “deaf, dumb and blind,” whites can beat us by fueling our emotions. As Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. said, “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.

Generally, the problem is not Tiger Woods. It is how we roll. We are unable to distinguish the difference between fumes and high octane gas. We fill up our tanks with fumes in New York and expect to arrive in San Francisco without delay. It will never happen. This is like being in a car with a dead battery. The world is waving us goodbye.

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