First African-American golfers in Minneapolis

I don’t have plans to write more about the first private golf courses in the Minneapolis area, as noted in my last post, but I do have interesting information on the creation of the first public golf courses in Minneapolis parks. Someday.

I’ll also write about efforts to integrate the private golf clubs that operated out of Minneapolis park golf courses in the early 1950s. At the center of that story were representatives of the Twin City Golf Association, an organization of black golfers — Frederic Jones, Bert Davison, John Williams, L. Howard Bennett and others — and one of the more colorful park commissioners ever, Ed Haislett. Haislett was a boxing champion, a professor, and the author of a book on boxing that was plagiarized by martial artist movie star Bruce Lee. How’s that for a resume?
All I’ll say about Haislett for now is that he was on the right side of that fight.

In the meantime, read an excellent article about black Minneapolis golfer Solomon Hughes and efforts to integrate the PGA tour, “Caucasians Only,” by my friend Tom Jones in Minnesota History magazine.

The first reference I found to black golfers in Minneapolis newspapers suggested efforts in 1901 to create another private golf course, this one between the existing Minikahda course and what would later be Interlachen. On June 4 of that year, under the headline “Colored People Talk of Organizing a Golf Club,” the Minneapolis Tribune reported that a “party of golf enthusiasts” had been travelling the wide expanse of ground “out beyond the Minikahda golf preserve” in an effort to find “suitable links for a new club.”

The article told of how a week earlier Scott Blake and “another colored dignitary” had each purchased a golf club and “struck out for open country” to test them. The Tribune reported that Blake drove his first ball “so far that it landed beyond human ken.” After hearing of Blake’s exploits the next day Charles  Britton and Howard Phillips bought full sets of clubs, according to the Tribune, and “ever since there has been a rush for golfing outfits by the colored folks of the locality.”

Scott Blake was quoted, “I’ve been thinking of taking up golf for a long time. Some of the people who play the game have told me that it was the best anti-fat remedy in the market, and the only difficulty has been the matter of a course. The best golf territory in this part of the country has already been annexed, and we have had to do some searching to find suitable links. I think that before long we shall be able to close a deal for the use of land that will give us a very good nine-hole course, and when the deal is made you will see some fun.”

I can find no further reference in newspapers to that proposed course. More on the 1950s story when I can get to it.

Of course I’d be delighted to hear stories you’ve heard about early Minneapolis golf courses, especially the park courses: Wirth, Columbia, Gross, Meadowbrook and Hiawatha.

David C. Smith

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