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The Original Tee Golf Classic was excited to recognize the historic accomplishments of a golf legend and true member of golf royalty, Renee Powell.
Only three African-American women have ever played for the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association since its inception in 1950. Of those three, only Renee Powell was able to become a Professional Class A member of both the LPGA and the PGA of America. Further, Powell changed the face of the sport of golf, both on and off the course, promoting the need for diversity in the various professional golf associations as well as women in sports around the world. Shortly before Powell was born on May 4, 1946, her father had already begun to design and build his own course on the dairy farm he owned in East Canton, Ohio.
Two years later, Clearview Golf Club opened to African Americans as well as any other players who wanted to play becoming the only course in the area open to people of color. Even today, the Clearview Golf Club remains the only African-American designed, constructed and managed golf course in the United States. With a golf course literally in her backyard, Renee Powell began to excel at the game. From the ages of 12 to 15-years, she stunned crowds –winning tournament after tournament collecting more than thirty trophies in the amateur league.
By 1967 at the age of 21, she stepped onto the tee as a professional golfer. For 13 years, she continued to add to her legacy—not only for her golfing prowess but also as one of golf’s great ambassadors. In 1980, Powell retired from the LPGA but didn’t leave golf. She set her sights on bringing golf to parts of the world that had never been exposed to the sport.
When Powell brought golf to Africa in 1981, she did so at her own expense, but brought with her a great amount of enthusiasm and deep professionalism. Her sincerity was clearly recognized by African officials. While there she helped Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda to improve his game and also played in a foursome with Gambian president Sir Dawdda Jawara and his two wives. The next year, she was invited back to Africa by the United States Information Agency to teach the game to women.
Over the next fifteen years, Powell would become an even larger name in the sport of golf. She took up broadcasting for ABC and CBS sports, covering different events on both the PGA and LPGA circuits. She would also continue to play in tournaments around the world as well as introduce and teach the game of golf to any country or continent she went to. She returned to Africa several times after 1981, each time conducting more clinics and networking with dignitaries. Her clinics mainly focused on women golfers, but Powell was happy to share her expertise with any person who was serious about learning how to play the game. Other countries such as Japan, Australia, Morocco, Spain, and England all received visits from Powell and her golf clinics aimed at educating women in the ways of golf.
In an interview with golfweb.com Powell expresses succinctly her mission. “My biggest job is to carry on what was has been put before me. I am here to create a level playing field, create opportunities for everyone. I want to grow the game of golf, let people know it’s open to everyone. If I can create opportunities for people to walk through this door, I’ve done my job.”