Driving Change – Golf’s Battle for Equality was presented by Sarah Mulkerrins in the lead up to the 2017 US Women’s Open Golf at Trump National. The documentary explores the challenges faced by former and current African American female golfers in the professional game. Clearview Golf Course owner, Renee Powell (PGA/LPGA) shares the many challenges that she has faced, including death threat letters, as an African American golf professional who traveled worldwide for tournaments. The BBC documentary digs deep into the history of the Clearview Golf Course, a former old dairy farm which Powell’s late father, William Powell, transformed into a golf course and opened in 1948.
Also featured in the documentary is the history and Wake-Robin Golf Club, founded in 1937, the first and today the nation’s oldest, women’s golf club in America. Their contributions of the club were an integral part of the movement which ended the PGA’s exclusionary Caucasian-only clause (1961). During the Jim Crow era, some women of Wake-Robin putted onto municipally owned white-only golf courses, such as East Potomac, their presence a protest while crowds hurled racial slurs, rocks, eggs or golf balls at them.
“I admired her spirit,” says Wake-Robin Golf Club member Betty Brabble of Renee Powell’s courage, “…that she was able to stay out there, because, I’m aware of the cruelty she experienced. She was there in the heart of racism and discrimination, and you see, that kind of thing had just become institutionalized in this country because even the country set up laws against us.” Brabble also serves on the Board of Directors and as Chaplain for the Wake-Robin.
1962 tennis great Althea Gibson became the first African American woman to compete on the LPGA Tour, Renee Powell followed in 1967. It took another 28 years for the next black player to arrive, with LaRee Sugg in 1995. Since then, Shasta Averyhardt, Cheyenne Woods, Sadena Parks, Ginger Howard and most recently Maria Stackhouse. That totals just eight African American women in 67-years.
Powell continued, “Until we get the numbers up with within the organizations that govern golf, I don’t think it’s going to change dramatically. Cause I think that a lot of things, so much starts at the top.”