Black women golfers have come a long way. What was considered a white man’s sport, black women emerged into the golf world from a time when they were not allowed to play the sport because they were black and a woman.
Before Althea Gibson became the first African American to compete on the LPGA Tour in 1963, a group of African American women who loved the game of golf wanted to start a club in Chicago.
CAnna Mae Robinson and her friends Cleo Ball and Vivian Pitts founded The Chicago Women’s Golf Club in November 1937. The women were wives of prominent doctors and lawyers. Robinson was the founding president. During the height of the club’s existence, the women traveled extensively, playing in tournaments. The club held its annual Memorial Tournaments that were sanctioned by the United Golfers Association, where professional African American men and women attended.
Prominent celebrities supported the club, such as Joe Louis and Duke Ellington. The Chicago Women’s Golf Club is the second oldest African American women’s golf club. Members who serve 25 years in the club become Emeritus Members.
The membership consists of generations of female golfers. Adell Cooper and daughter Malika Cooper, Crystal Miles-Bradbury, and daughter Kennedy Graves continue the legacy of golfers. Charmian Moore has been the longest and most active member of the club for 42 years, and her daughter Jessica Moore is a member. The oldest member, Mary Stacker, who just turned 96 years old, is still an active golfer. The official club colors are royal blue and gold.
Lunye’ Williams is the current President of the Chicago Women’s Golf Club. William’s love of golf started the first time she hit the golf ball. “The very first hit, I knew I was hooked. I joined the club immediately when there was open enrollment. Golf is my addiction, and I love the sport,” says Williams.
As President, Williams’ goal is to grow the membership. Currently, there are 60 active members. Under her leadership, Williams wants to reach the goal of 80, which is the membership capacity. Williams also wants to increase membership of the Bob-O-Links, a junior program founded by Agnes Williams in 1954. The Bob-O-Links is a 501(c)(3) organization that focuses on self-esteem, education, growth, and development through the game of golf for Chicago boys and girls from ages 8 to 17. The club provides scholarships for the Bob-O-Links. “It’s important to get young people to play golf. If you talk to older athletes who started playing golf as adults, the one thing they say is, they wished that someone introduced them to golf earlier in life,” says Williams.
Since its inception, The Chicago Women’s Golf Club has dealt with being harassed, mistreated, and not welcomed on the golf course. Some women feel the acronym of the word “golf” means “Gentleman Only Ladies Forbidden.” Williams has encountered being harassed by men on the golf course. “Men have come up to me and my group saying it shouldn’t take us this long to play a hole. I would tell them they could go ahead of us. As a courtesy, that’s what you do when you are playing slow. The worst feeling is getting hit with a golf ball, which has happened to me. This is something that we still have to deal with today is the disrespect. When men see women on the golf course, they think we don’t know what we are doing. Some men automatically think that women can’t play golf, but we can,” says Williams.
Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller is the great-granddaughter of Anna Mae Robinson, who was one of the founders of The Chicago Women’s Golf Club. Robinson’s mother was born enslaved, and her father was a slave master. Her father loved and provided Robinson with an education and taught her how to play golf.
In 1930, when women could not golf at a public golf course, Robinson petitioned the Cook County Board to get golfing privileges for women. This is the same Cook County Board that Miller currently sits on as the Cook County Board Commissioner of the 6th District. It took my great-grandmother 14 years for women to have golfing privileges. “I think of that as a true testament of perseverance. She kept coming back, and each time she was denied. My great-grandmother refused to give up,” says Miller.
Robinson served as the first president of the Chicago Women’s Golf Club from 1937 to 1939. In 1944, Robinson was elected the 4th Vice President of the UGA at its annual meeting. Robinson and other chapter members petitioned Cook County for privileges to play at the Pipe O’ Peace Golf Club. After several appeals, the club was granted to use the facility and became the official tournament site in 1952. The golf course was later named “The Joe Louis Golf Course.”
Robinson began a campaign to recognize African American golfers. In 1959, her efforts led to establishing the UGA/National Afro-American Golfers Hall of Fame, and Robinson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962. In 1960, Robinson served as the 13th President of the Chicago Women’s Golf Club from 1960 to 1962. As President, Robinson was the first to get a corporate sponsor, Borden Milk Company, for the club’s national golf tournament. Robinson passed away in 1984.
Miller’s great-grandmother, who she calls “Nano,” not only inspired a generation of women to become golfers but refused to give up when there were obstacles in her path. “I attribute everything in my life to all the great women in my family. They were strong women who never accepted no,” says Miller, who presented a resolution honoring The Chicago Women’s Golf Club in 2019.
Williams is proud to be standing on the shoulders of the founders of The Chicago Women’s Golf Club, who fought through racism and sexism to be still standing 85 years later. “I thank these courageous women who paved the way for me to play golf. I am grateful that they stood their ground and kept the course despite everything they endured. I know Anna Mae Robinson is looking down smiling,” says Williams.
The Chicago Women’s Golf Club will be having its annual “Anna Mae Robinson Annual Open Tournament Sunday, June 26, 2022. For more information, go to thecwgc.weebly.com.
Tammy Gibson is an author, re-enactor, and black history traveler. Find her on social media @sankofatravelher.