Sunday, January 3, 2010

Golf Legend Dies and Tiger Should Take Note

It's really very simple! Tiger should get to Canton for Bill Powell's memorial service!
by Charlie Leck

If I were advising Tiger Woods about his current PR problems, I'd have one big, strong piece of advise this morning: Get to Bill Powell's memorial service and pay homage to the guy! Don't miss it!

Bill Powell is a legend in Ohio and to many people elsewhere. This grandson of Alabama slaves died on Thurday. He grew up loving the sport of golf. He was the first black man in America to own, build and operate his own golf course and he did so until very recently. He died in a Canton hosptial after suffering complications following a stroke.

He's was a special dude and Tiger Woods should take notice.

Last summer, here in Minneapolis, at the annual Professional Golfers of America (PGA)Championship, Mr. Powell was presented the Distinguished Service Award. When the award was announced in a Minneapolis theater, Powell received four standing ovations. Congratulations were received from President Obama and former President George W. Bush.

Powell served in the Second World War and returned home to a nation that would not allow him to play on its golf courses. The PGA itself barred non-whites from membership and that restriction stayed in effect until 1961.

So, Powell decided to build his own golf course. He was turned down by all the banks to which he applied for loans. Fortunately, he was funded by a couple of black doctors and his brother and he bought the land, designed the layout and did most of the construction work himself. In 2001, Powell's golf course, Clearview, was designated a national historic site by the Department of Interior.

This summer, in his Minneapolis acceptance speech, Powell explained why he built his golf course: "I did not want other people who wanted to play the game of golf to have to suffer the indignities that I had." The closing remarks of his speech were: "Stand firm! Never give up! Never give in! Believe in yourself, even when others don't."

Powell received a number of other distinguished awards, including the Jack Nicklaus Golf Family of the Year Award in 1992. Yet, Powell described a moment in 1997, when two white women drove all the way from Atlanta to play his golf course, as one of his most thrilling.

"They shook my hand and thanked me," Powell told a crowd. "They said I have a piece of history here and they wanted to be a part of it."

Damn it, Tiger, you'd better be at that service. You need some of the spirit of Bill Powell to rub off on you.

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