Before bus boycotts and lunch counter sit-ins there were fights in court, right here in Kansas City, to allow Black people access to Swope Memorial Golf Course.
In that exact site, on June 14, he Black Archives of Mid-America is hosting a conversation moderated by KCTV5’s Adam Orduna and Urban Historian Eric Stafford that delves into the rich and often overlooked history of Black golfers. The June 15 event takes place at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and is moderated by Vic Dyson of Hot 103 Jamz and KPRT Gospel.
“You’ll get a broad-based-history lesson about golf, but it’s also about the civil rights movement because I believe that golf was one of the main initiators of civil rights,” says Jim Watts ombudsman for the Black Archives.
The event spans two days and two locations, June 14 and 15. The event features moderated conversations followed by interactive question-and-answer sessions with guests including Lane Demas author of “Game of Privilege” and Willie Burks who’s the head golf coach at Morehouse College.
“You’ll hear about some of the trials and tribulations we had in getting into the golf business, being able to play on a golf course, being able to actually show our skills as a Black man on the golf course because they thought that we couldn’t do this at first,” says Moorehouse Director of Golf Willie Burks
The history of Black golfers begins long before Tiger Woods, and starts in 1896 with John Shippen playing as the first Black golfer in the U.S. Open. Attendees are sure to hear his story along with stories about the potato farmer who established the nation’s first Black-only golf course just outside of Kansas City. It’s the course where local stalwarts Bruce Watkins, Buck O’Neil, and Ollie Gates teed off.
The event serves as an opportunity to learn more about the rich history of Black golfers, including the “Whites only” clause on the PGA tour and the systemic racism that has kept the number of professional Black golfers low over the years and current efforts to overcome it.
Burks and Watts both participate in First Tee, an organization aimed at increasing the number of inner-city youth involved in golf.
History of Black Golfers
June 14 at 4 p.m.
Swope Memorial Golf Course
6900 Swope Memorial Dr, Kansas City.
Moderated by Adam Orduna & Eric Stafford
June 15 at 5 p.m.
Negro Baseball Museum
1616 E 18th Street, Kansas City
Moderated by Vic Dyson