Founded in 1894, the United States Golf Association is woven into the fabric of the game here in America. It’s rare when a nearly 130-year-old organization makes history, but that’s precisely what the USGA did last week with the election of its new president.
Fred Perpall will serve a three-year term as the 67th president of the governing body, where he will lead the USGA Executive Committee, an all-volunteer, policy-making board that provides strategic direction and oversight to the association’s full-time staff. The significance? He’s the first Black man to hold the position.
After his nomination and subsequent election, Perpall is the latest to add his name to a long list of individuals who have broken down barriers for the good of the game through the USGA. From the figures preserved through the collections at the USGA Golf Museum and Library to modern day champions, celebrate Black History Month and get to know a little more about some of the most notable pioneers in the game.
Shippen became the first Black man to compete in a USGA championship at the 1896 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Golf Club, where he finished in sixth place. Then-USGA President Theodore Havemeyer defended the participation of Shippen, as well as Shinnecock tribe member Oscar Bunn, which set a standard of inclusion for years to come.
Known as the first Black professor at Harvard University, Dr. Grant also patented the first wooden tee in 1899. One of the USGA’s most notable acquisitions of 2022 was a replica wooden tee created by Dr. Grant.
Chicago Women’s Golf Club became the first all-Black organization to join the USGA as a member club in 1956. Gregory, a CWGC member, was allowed entry into that year’s U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Women’s Amateur and became the first black woman to compete in a USGA championship.
Just three years later, Wright became the first Black man to win a USGA championship at the 1959 U.S. Amateur Public Links at Wellshire Golf Course in Denver, Colorado. Wright never trailed in any of his matches.
Ever heard of him? Woods won his ninth USGA championship at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego, tying Robert T. Jones Jr.’s record for most USGA championship wins. Just the third Black person to win a USGA championship, Woods matched the record in unprecedented fashion thanks to six consecutive USGA championship titles (1991-1993 U.S. Junior Amateurs; 1994-1996 U.S. Amateurs), as well as three U.S. Open victories (2000, 2002, 2008).
Douglas began serving as a member of the USGA Women’s Committee in 1993 and in 2009 became the first Black woman to lead the committee. Alongside her work with the USGA, Douglas also served as President of the National Minority Golf Foundation from 1999-2005.
Johnson was the first Black woman to be an owner of three professional sports franchises – Washington Capitals (NHL), Washington Wizards (NBA) and Washington Mystics (WNBA) – and in 2013 became the first Black female member of the USGA Executive Committee. Johnson is also a founding member of Black Entertainment Television (BET) and a board member of the Tiger Woods Foundation and ANNIKA Foundation.
In 2019 Elder became the first Black person to be awarded the USGA’s highest honor for distinguished sportsmanship in golf, the Bob Jones Award. Elder managed the desegregation of the famed Langston Golf Course in Washington, D.C. and was the first Black man to compete in the Masters Tournament and Ryder Cup.
As the USGA’s first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Ramos helps individuals from underrepresented communities identify pathways into a career in golf. Ramos helped coordinate the USGA’s Pathways Internship Program (known as the Lee Elder Internship in its inaugural year at the 2022 U.S. Open) and will lead the USGA’s efforts tied to the program at the 2023 U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club.