*This article was originally posted on BeHer Sports and has been edited for clarity by the editorial manager*
The legacy of Renee Powell’s father continues to live on through her and anyone who plays at the historic Clearview Golf course in East Canton, Ohio.
“You can see out over a long, long distance and you get such a clear view of the landscape,” Powell said. “But my dad was such a visionary person, too. He had such a clear view of the future and what should be and what could be and what we could all work towards.”
Powell’s father, Bill, had been drafted and stationed in Scotland during World War II. three years after returning home from the war in 1948, Bill built the golf course with his own two hands in a time when white-owned banks and investors didn’t loan money to Black businessmen. Instead, Bill received loans from two Black doctors and his brother, and he converted a 78-acre dairy farm into the first U.S. course designed, owned, and operated by an African-American.
Bill built it as a labor of love for Black golfers, athletes, and families who weren’t welcome at other golf courses. It was the first integrated course in the country, and today, its legacy lives on as a National Historic Site, but also through his daughter Renee who serves as the current LPGA/PGA head golf professional at the club.
Renee grew up with the course in her backyard and got to witness its legacy, as well as her father’s, grow throughout the years. Renee’s own legacy began as a phenomenal athlete and carries on today as an advocate for inclusion, equality, and golf for all.
Renee learned how to golf at a young age, and quickly became a top amateur golfer, eventually dominating local and regional youth tournaments, after her parents fought for her right to participate. In high school, Renee became the first African-American girl to play in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, and while she dominated on the greens, she still faced endless prejudices.
“It was my first big tournament,” Renee told Canton Repository. “I was 16. Back then, when you read the write-ups, I was referred to as ‘Renee Powell, a Negro from Ohio.’ … Joe Dey was the director of the USGA then, before he was the first commissioner of the PGA Tour. I remember he was so nice. They came out to greet my dad and me, and he said, ‘We want to welcome you, Mr. Powell, and we want to let you know that the only thing the USGA requires is that you have a golf game … and Renee has that.’”
Renee later became the second African-American woman behind Althea Gibson to ever play on the LPGA Tour. As a tour player, Renee competed in more than 250 professional tournaments and won the 1973 Kelly Springfield Open in Brisbane, Australia. While her success continued as she played professionally for 13 years, and was well-respected among other golfers, Renee still faced issues of discrimination, racism, and even death threats.
“The problems came from outsiders,” Renee said. “The ’60s were a turbulent time. We played in places in the deep South where there were many challenges, but it wasn’t only in the South. There were plenty of places elsewhere in the country where I wasn’t welcome as a Black woman in golf. There were always people who welcomed me with open arms, too.”
Renee retired from the LPGA in 1980, but her work in golf was far from over as she dedicated her life to continuing the work that her parents started, and advocating for golf for all. Renee focused on diversifying the game and making sure that other people of color, women, seniors, children, and veterans had access to the game she loves so much.
According to her biography, Renee became an International Goodwill Ambassador and made more than 25 trips to Africa to host golf clinics. In 2011, Powell launched Clearview H.O.P.E (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) which offers cost-free therapeutic and recreational golf programs exclusively for female veterans year-round.
Despite her countless accomplishments, Renee continues the work she does to make the world a better place for others through coaching, mentorship, and community service. She credits her success to the sacrifices that her family, as well as everyone who came before her, made.
“The honor is really for the sacrifices my family made, for those who came before me, men and women who fought the fight with good hearts and great devotion,” Renee said in an essay for LPGA.com. “What I do now is for them. And for those who will follow.”
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