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Breaking new ground

Valencia student reacts to documentary about de-segregation of golf

Posted: March 24, 2009 6:50 p.m.
Updated: March 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Valencia High School golf coach Rusty Swisher, left, talks with presenter James Black after the "Uneven Fairways" presentation.

Today, African Americans contribute to every professional sport. However, they have not always had the chance. I had the opportunity to watch the documentary, "Uneven Fairways" March 13, and I am very glad I attended.

This film is about the struggle that many African-American golfers endured while attempting to become professionals. They were unable to join tours in this time of racial segregation. I did not know what to expect as I was sitting in the audience, waiting for the documentary to play. Was it going to be boring? Was I actually going to learn anything from watching this?

Shortly after the film started, all of my previous questions vanished. The powerful introduction captured my attention and held it throughout as I watched and listened to the painful experiences shared by African American professional golfers talk about how they struggled to gain acceptance and be a part of the PGA tournament. It was not an easy goal, seeing as this was a time when there was much racial segregation throughout all of America.

Charlie Sifford, known as the Jackie Robinson of golf, states in the film, "I saw people making money, and I couldn't make any because I was black." These words showed me just how frustrating it was for him and many other black golfers to not make any money off their hard work and love for the game while white golfers could make a living from the same game.

In response to the PGA tour's black segregation, these golfers traveled around America, playing in the United Golf Association. This was an association where race didn't matter and everyone who loved the game of golf was able to play.

This documentary impacted me in so many ways, showing me first-hand experiences of golfers who lived in a time where they couldn't play on certain tours because of their race and by showing me how hard they fought for their rights.

I also had the chance to listen to a guest speaker after the documentary, James Black. He spoke about the importance of self-respect and that you are the only one in control of your future. He really gave me a lot of insight about life and how he would always try his hardest to become the best he could be.

He never settled for anything less than his best, and I took away a lot from that.

It is important that these stories be told to society's youth, in order to teach them about our country's history. The African Americans' contributions and accomplishments in all sports are something to be very proud of. I walked away from this documentary with a sense of achievement for African Americans and much more knowledge on the past situations of racial segregation in golf.

Cory Otavka is a senior at Valencia High School.


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