Willie McRae Remembers Charlie Sifford at Pinehurst

Today, the golf world – more than that, actually – is mourning the passing of Charlie Sifford, who courageously broke golf’s color barrier. The World Golf Hall-of-Famer was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in November.

Willie McRae appears in the January 2015 issue of Our State magazine. Legendary Pinehurst caddie Willie McRae (at left), who has caddied at Pinehurst for more than seven decades, remembers a moment from one of the Colgate Hall of Fame Classic PGA Tour events, which Pinehurst hosted through the 1970s and early 1980s – a story that includes Arnold Palmer and Sifford.

As McRae tells it:

In another Hall of Fame tournament, “Arnie’s Army” swelled early on…just like it always did.He’d just hit a magnificent approach shot some 5 feet from the hole. The crowd immediately pressed onward, but the King called out to halt its progress. Now his playing partners that day were Julius Boros and Charlie Sifford, who was one of the first touring black golfers. Both men had out-driven the man who was controlling the crowd lining the fairway.

“Please wait until Mr. Sifford shoots. “Charlie’s a golfer just like me.” -Arnold Palmer

“Please wait until Mr. Sifford shoots,” Mr. Palmer requested. His army of fans immediately froze in place. “Charlie’s a golfer just like me. And so too is Mr. Boros. Clap for them as you would for me, or please, don’t clap at all. Thank you.”

No, Mr. Palmer, thank you.