Written by Staff Writer
Golf has a rich history of all-white professional leagues. One of those was the Eastern Amateurs, founded in 1929. However, for the first time in US sporting history, in 2008, two African-American golfers, Jay Haas and Tiger Woods, became US Open champions.
It was success for Haas, who was born in Los Angeles, and for Woods, who was born in Cypress, California.
The first African-American professional golfer to claim a men’s Tour win was George “Chimps” G. Ellis — also known as the “Chimpsman” — from south central New York. This was in 1958, and he finished ninth in the US Open that year.
George “Chimps” Ellis, golfer. Credit: Ed Bailey
Ellis was also known for being an inspiration for best friend and fellow golf champion Lee Trevino, along with being Woods’ first tour caddie.
Golf’s first women professional, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, won a tournament in Memphis, Tennessee in 1953, but she was not introduced as African-American, which would change in 1968.
The last African-American male professional golfer was Elvin Jones, who died in 1976.
A special plaque in the East Amateurs’ clubhouse at Westmont Golf Course in Illinois bears his name, as well as his nickname, Paddy Tom McArthur, the name of the club he attended, and the date in May 1977 — his last tour victory. It is among the first to celebrate the first African-American golf professional.