A Course of Their Own


A Course of Their Own

A History of African American Golfers

John H. Kennedy
With an afterword by the author

282 pages


March 2005


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Bill Spiller was forty-seven when he was forced by desperate finances to caddie at the Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles. One day Spiller was caddying for a member who became outraged by Spiller’s stories of inequities and suffering during his golfing career. The golfer urged Spiller to write California’s attorney general, who later ordered the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) to cease its discrimination. In 1961 the “Caucasian race” clause was deleted from the PGA constitution. This was an historic decision that gave black golfers the chance to compete at the highest level in the sport.
Golf has long been the domain of white men. During the twentieth century, however, African American pioneers such as Lee Elder, Howard Wheeler, and Charlie Sifford broke down the barriers for black golfers who wanted to play, and win, as equals with white golfers. A Course of Their Own looks at golf from the perspectives of these men, who had courage as well as remarkable skills. It tells the stories of their struggles, their bravery, and their passion for the game and puts their lives and contributions into historical perspective.

Author Bio

John H. Kennedy has been a journalist for nearly three decades and has worked as a reporter and an editor for the Boston Globe and the Associated Press. He is an assistant professor of communication at Rosemont College in Pennsylvania.


“[Kennedy] has written a fascinating history of African-American golfers.”—Stan Hochman, Philadelphia Daily News

“[Kennedy] paints with great detail a picture of how hard it was for African Americans trying to play their way onto the PGA Tour.”—John Schumacher, Sacramento Bee

A Course of Their Own is a compelling read, a tough read, an enlightening read. And perhaps most of all, it is an important read for anyone who knows and loves the game of golf.”—John Steinbreder, Golfweek

"John H. Kennedy chooses . . . a familiar, colloquial style that almost transparently frames the players' stories while resonating with their voices. There is no high apparatus here, no glossy metaphor. The facts . . . are presented eloquently through the oral histories of the African American golfers and others who lived in those mighty times."—William R. Willan, Aethlon

"John Kennedy's A Course of Their Own reminds us that, before Tiger, there were many other black professionals whose abilities may have rivaled his but they never received the chance to play in the Masters nor in any other PGA sponsored events."—J. Paul Leslie, Sports Literature Association

"What Kennedy manages to do so well in his book is to give the reader a sense of some of the hardships that African-American golfers had to endure to chase their dreams, only to be denied chances time after time. . . . By using interview material Kennedy has helped preserve the oral history of these pioneers in golf and to provide the reader an important part of golf history that can not be provided by lists of tournament winners and tour statistics."—James Watson, Journal of Sport History

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