As Selma marches on, Ephraim Dickinson brought golf to black players

Ephraim Dickinson has a golf academy in Birmingham and resides in Homewood, Alabama. He was the first African-American professional golfer to make it onto the PGA Tour and after his career on the circuit ended in 1979, he briefly competed in Europe. (Editor’s note: Former tour player Dale Evans was the first African-American professional golfers to have a career on the PGA Tour.)

Dickinson’s days of competing on the PGA Tour were cut short, but he has done something remarkable in a career far below the exposure that Tiger Woods achieved: he established the way for other black players, including his golf protégé Justin Thomas, to break in to the game.

While many progressions in major sports failed to break barriers, Dickinson has seen a series of increased opportunities for black professionals in golf. Thanks to the title role of Marshall Wallace in the film “BlacKkKlansman,” actor Adam Driver is getting more prominence, especially as he holds his own in the spotlight alongside Colin Farrell. And Driver’s progress would not have happened without Dickinson.

Dickinson was given the chance to compete on the PGA Tour in 1969 when he was invited to join the tour to play in a tournament in 1969. In a long-lasting association, Dickinson was on tour from 1969 to 1971 and 1973 to 1976. Throughout this time, he moved up from 163rd in the rankings to first, cashing $30,000 in endorsements. Following his successes, he moved to Europe.

Dickinson stayed in Europe and never came back to the United States in a professional capacity. He returned home to establish his own academy for young golfers.

For more on Ephraim Dickinson, you can read “After Tiger: An Autobiography from the Ground Up” by Mick LaSalle (Oct. 2018).

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