Amy Alcott admitted that her career represents “a little girl’s dream come true,” while Charlie Sifford said, “I want to thank God for keeping me here,” as the two legendary golfers were inducted into the SCGA Hall of Fame at a luncheon ceremony Tuesday in Universal City.
Each golfer was treated to a standing ovation when introduced to the nearly 300 guests in attendance.
Alcott, who grew up in West Los Angeles and has been a Southern California resident throughout her career, said, “To be inducted locally, in my hometown, where my roots are, is what it’s all about. I really do treasure this.” Over an illustrious pro career, she won 29 LPGA tournaments, including five majors.
Sifford, who broke the PGA’s color barrier in the early 1960s and won the Los Angeles Open in 1969, said, “I always liked people. It didn’t matter to me if you were white, black, blue or green. If you were a person, you were all right with Charlie Sifford.”
Sifford’s presenter, golf writer Pete McDaniel, eloquently described the struggles Sifford faced in trying to crack an all-white sport – and the grit that this man brought to the effort. “No one ever accused Charlie Sifford of apathy or complacency,” McDaniel said. “He wasn’t a Superman in spikes. He was just a man who refused to take no for an answer.”
A native of Charlotte, N.C., Sifford became the first African-American to compete on the PGA tour. His friendship with professional Teddy Rhodes first brought Sifford to Southern California in the early 1950s. He won the Long Beach Open in 1957, and after the PGA dropped its Caucasian-only clause in 1961 secured his first PGA Tour victory at the Greater Hartford Open in 1967. Sifford went on to capture the PGA Seniors' Championship in 1975 and was an original member of the PGA’s Champions Tour. Sifford was the first African-American to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, in 2004.
In presenting Alcott, childhood friend Lee Michaels said that in observing her as a junior, “it was like watching Babe Ruth take batting practice – seeing someone do something you’ve never seen before.”
Alcott competed on the LPGA Tour for 30 seasons and was inducted into its Hall of Fame and the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999. A longtime Santa Monica resident, she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship three times and started the tradition of jumping into Poppie’s Pond at Mission Hills CC after winning the 1988 title.
Alcott started playing golf at the age of 9 at her Brentwood home. She competed throughout Southern California and in her amateur career amassed 132 junior golf trophies, including the 1973 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at the age of 17. Alcott made history in 1974 as the first female golfer to play in the CIF-SCGA high school championship as a member of the Palisades High School boys’ team.
Memorabilia from the careers of both golfers was displayed prominently at the induction ceremony, and guests delighted in looking over the photos, newspaper clippings, programs and badges from past events.
Artwork of Alcott and Sifford by famed artist Scott Medlock was unveiled during the ceremony. Medlock has captured the likenesses of all 20 members of the SCGA Hall of Fame.
During her speech, Alcott revealed her top-10 favorite things about growing up in Southern California. The list is:
10. Walking into Walter Keller's Golf shop at 9, hitting a ball into a net and having him tell my mom he wanted to give me lessons.
9. Sneaking in under the fence at the VA and getting locked in.
8. The good times waiting in line at Rancho. I had to lie to the starter about my age.
7. Generosity of Charles Faye Hathaway to give me a junior membership to Riviera to feel like I belonged.
6. Jumping in the water with Dinah and before that with my caddie, Bill Kurre, at the Dinah Shore Classic.
5. Playing at Riviera and having Dean Martin watch and teach me about gambling and drinking.
4. Only here can you hit balls at low tide and hit bunker shots in trash cans.
3. Running into Gerald Ford at a Ralph's in Palm Desert.
2. Rounds of golf with Bill Clinton.
1. Being invited to the men's grill room at Hillcrest Country Club and seeing George Burns walk by. "My friend told him I won the Dinah Shore three times. He said, `I slept with Dinah.' I'm not the only one that makes up stories."
Columnist Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times sat down with Charlie Sifford Monday for his sports column which ran Tuesday. The two discussed Sifford's memories of breaking the PGA Tour color barries, including some, like the Masters, which still burn. Click here to read the article.
Michael Martinez of Fox Sports West discusses Charlie Sifford's golf background, including the fact that he never took lessons, in this column.
Doug Krikorian, columnist for the Long Beach Press-Telegram, wrote last week about why Sifford deserved this honor. Read the article here.
Jill Painter of the Los Angeles Daily News was in attendance at the Hall of Fame Ceremony on Tuesday. Click here to read her coverage.
L.A.'s local CBS station covered the event with this short clip.