Who in the World Was Renee Powell?

In 2013, CaShawn Thompson popularized the phrase “Black Girl Magic” as way to celebrate the power and resilience of Black women, as well as to praise their accomplishments. But as we know, Black women have been magic forever. Renee Powell, the greatest African-American female golfer of all-time, is no exception to this rule.

For decades, events produced by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) were exclusive to whites. But in 1961, the organization lifted its “Caucasian-only clause” and allowed players from all racial backgrounds to participate. Six years later, Renee Powell became the second African American female to take part in a LPGA tournament preceded by Althea Gibson. This year represents the 50th Anniversary of Powell’s professional gold debut.

Athleticism ran in Powell’s family. Her father, William Powell, was the first African-American to design and build a golf course–the extraordinary Clearview Golf Club in Canton, OH. At the age of three, Renee was already swinging golf clubs and receiving instruction from her father who nurtured her into becoming the Black female golfer of the future.

Throughout her 13 year career, Powell competed in 250 professional golf events with a major win at the Kelly Springfield Open in Brisbane, Australia.  When not competing, Powell spent time in Africa and Europe teaching golf to women before returning to her home in Canton.

Despite her achievements, Powell did not always get the recognition or treatment she deserved. While associated with LPGA, she frequently received death threats, was denied access to country clubs, had reservations “lost” at hotels, and even wasn’t served food at restaurants. Nevertheless, she continued to maintain an optimistic spirit about her well-earned spot in the sport of golf.

Since retirement, Powell has received the highest possible honor in golf – honorary membership into the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. In 2015, she became the first and only African-American woman to receive this prestigious distinction in history.  Other notable members include Louise Suggs, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus.

Renee Powell is an exceptional example of Black women’s influence, capabilities, and dominance. There are no bounds on the breadth of Black women’s successes and we hope they continue to #pushBlack.