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(Burneyville, OK, April 14, 2024):By Barbara W. Sessions, Curator, Turner's Lodge Pro Golf Museum at Falconhead Resort, Burneyville, OK

Updated: Apr 21

Jay C. Upchurch, Norman, OK, is editor of Sooner Spectator
Jay C. Upchurch

Caption: Jay C. Upchurch, Norman, OK, is editor of Sooner Spectator.

"Pete Brown was golf's equivalent of Jackie Robinson -- with a golf club in his hand, a smile on his face, and a dream in his heart." --Jay C. Upchurch, Oklahoma sportswriter

A veteran sportswriter, Jay C. Upchurch, was the last Oklahoma reporter to interview Pete Brown. Brown, who died on May 1, 2015, is credited with being the first African American member of the PGA to win an official event, the 1964 Waco Turner Open, which was played in Burneyville, OK.

The Pete Brown Diamond Jubilee is taking place May 1 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Brown's historic victory. The program begins at 12:30 p.m. on the 18th green of Falconhead Resort in Burneyville, formerly known as Turner's Lodge Golf Club. Notables from the world of golf will be on the program, among them professional golfer Jim Dent, 84, who played the PGA Tour with Brown.

Upchurch will be first up to read excerpts from his article, "First sign of hope for black golfers shone in Burneyville," from the February 20, 2008 issue of Oklahoma Gazette.

"More than 30 years before Tiger Woods captured his first PGA title, a little-known golfer named Pete Brown rolled into the tiny Oklahoma town of Burneyville and made history.

"The 29-year-old Mississippi native bested a tournament-tested field at the 1964 Waco Turner Open that included Raymond Floyd, Miller Barber, Charles Coody, and Bruce Crampton. A scrambling three at the par-3 72nd hole gave Brown a one-shot victory over Dan Sikes.

"What’s so significant about the final results of some little golf tournament played in rural Oklahoma almost half a century ago?

"Plenty. And not just from a sports angle, but from one of great social value. Only nine months after civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech in Washington, D.C., Brown fulfilled one of his lifelong dreams by becoming the first Black to win a PGA Tour event.

"The fact he did it without any fanfare and with little media attention makes Brown the answer to an obscure trivia question. His accomplishment, however significant to other Black golfers and to his race in general -- not to mention how it helped further alter the narrow-mindedness of professional golf -- is still underpublicized today.

"But the truth is, Brown was golf’s equivalent of Jackie Robinson. While not the first Black to earn his PGA Tour card -- that honor belongs to his longtime friend Charles Sifford (in 1961) -- Brown quietly and passionately waged war against racism and discrimination. He did so with a golf club in his hand, a smile on his face, and a dream in his heart.

"'We dealt with a lot of obstacles back then. Unfortunately, it was just the way it was,' Brown said . . . 'We played in a lot of places that nobody wanted us to play, and it was definitely volatile at times. You had to be thick-skinned. . . .Being the first Black player to win a PGA event was special . . .because of the struggles we had endured just to play on the regular tour.'”

"Brown, who honed his golfing skills in Jackson, MS then overcame polio as a young man, turned pro in 1954. But it was not until the PGA abolished its "Caucasian only" clause in 1961 that Brown and others were given the opportunity to compete on a somewhat level playing field.

Brown and Sifford traveled together and blazed trails across the country, playing in many PGA events that had previously only seen Blacks fill the roles of caddies.

"With some of the challenged we faced, I knew I had to focus that much harder on my goal of playing professional golf," said Brown.

(Burneyville, OK, April 14, 2024):

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