Although there were black professional golfers before Tiger Woods exploded on the stage in the mid-1990s, it was Woods and his tremendous success that sparked a lively renewed interest in the game – and helped create more opportunities for black golfers across America create.
Before Woods, white golfers like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and the amateur prodigy Bobby Jones were on everyone’s lips.
In Greenwood, during the days when Nicklaus and Palmer competed against each other in seemingly every major tournament, blacks mainly served as caddies in places like Greenwood Country Club.
Stanley Foggie, 80, who owns a hair salon in Greenwood, grew up with a love of golf. It has opened up opportunities for him – and he hopes it will do the same for others.
“In a way, it’s (the story) about me, but I’d like to talk to the little kids who don’t know about golf,” Foggie said. “So many children come up to me and ask me if I play golf. Where do I play golf? How did I learn to play golf? Questions like this. It’s like they didn’t know blacks play golf. There’s a lot about golf that the poor kids – black and white – can’t experience. “
At the age of about 13, Foggie – known by his friends as Bobby – heard that he could make money with Caddy at the country club. During one of his first times as a caddy at the country club, he experienced the reality of blackness in the south during the Jim Crow era.
As a caddy, Foggie was interested in the tools used to play the game. He was fascinated by the different sizes and shapes of golf clubs, their presentation, the size and shape of the golf bags and the tiny golf balls. He decided to play around with a number of thugs that were right outside the clubhouse while he waited for the caddy. He wanted to imitate what he had seen other golfers on the course. He held and stroked the clubs, pretending to tee off or even make a hole-in-one.
As he envisioned becoming the next Arnold Palmer, he said he was caught doing these things by the golfer he was the caddy for that day. Foggie said the man told him, “Put the stick down, boy. Golf is a game of whites. “
Floyd Nicholson, a former Greenwood Mayor and Senator, said, “Blacks weren’t allowed to play there (at the country club) at the time. They were only allowed to caddy. I was a caddy out there too. “
Forest Parker Sr. opened the Cokesbury Hills Golf Club in 1965. It was one of only two black-owned country clubs in South Carolina at the time.
Cokesbury offered African Americans the opportunity to play golf on the nine-hole course. Foggie names Parker a major influence. Foggie became a member of Cokesbury after returning from service in the Army.
It was in Cokesbury that Foggie honed his skills. He began playing golf locally and is a record-breaking five-time champion of the Cokesbury Hills Golf Tournament.
Long-time Index Journal golf writer Jim Joyce, now retired, covered some of the tournaments Foggie competed in. An article dated July 9, 2000 was entitled “From caddy to five-time champion: Stanley Foggie wins fifth title in Cokesbury Hills”.
Foggie has won several tournaments including the Parkland Invitational, Men’s Amateur Championship, Scramblers Golf Club Tournament at Stoney Point, Greenwood Scramblers Club Golf Championship at Cokesbury, Men’s and Seniors Club Championship at Parkland, among others.
Foggie said his biggest challenges were playing tournaments in mostly white clubs. After Foggie was finally allowed to play in some white clubs, he was still unable to play on-site at the annual SC Festival of Flowers golf tournament.
He said that word got around for years as to why he couldn’t take part in the tournament. In 1990, however, Foggie received an invitation to the festival tournament. He said it was one of the happiest and proudest moments in his life. He still holds the scorecard in a special place among his numerous trophies and awards.
Foggie thoughtfully recalls a time when he had no black role model to teach him the game, no facilities to practice or play, and most importantly, no money to buy equipment.
Becoming a caddy was a blessing for Foggie. He made good money. In fact, the money turned out to be so good that one day he decided to cut school at the country club to caddy.
Foggie worked for Luke Ervin, a Greenwood businessman. When Ervin discovered that Foggie had reduced school for him to caddy that day, he was outraged, Foggie said.
“Don’t ever graduate from school to become a caddy,” Ervin chided him. “Your education is too important to miss out on caddying. Do not ever do that again.”
Later that week, Ervin gave Foggie his first set of golf clubs. He never forgot advice or dropped out of school, later graduating from the separate Brewer High School.
After joining the Army, Foggie began perfecting his golfing skills after meeting people with similar interests and playing in some public places that allowed blacks to play close to the various cities he was in the US or in was stationed abroad.
“He means a lot,” said Nicholson of Foggie’s contributions to the game. “He worked with the Greenwood Scramblers and they were very instrumental in getting young blacks interested in golf.”
Olin Klugh, a resident of Hodges, came into contact with golf after buying a Coke at the Cokesbury Club.
That was in 1964 when Parker built the course. Parker gave Klugh three balls and told him to go out and do a few swings.
“I grabbed a 7-iron and knew nothing about golf,” said Klugh. “I hit the first one about a foot from the hole. I hit six or seven more and I bet I didn’t make it halfway down the hole. “
Klugh, a schoolmate from Foggie’s in Brewer, watched Foggie play at the club, mesmerized by what he saw.
“Bobby Foggie was probably the No. 1 black golfer in the area in the 1960s,” said Klugh. “I just watched him play to see how he won the club. He had a unique swing. He really could play. He can still play. “
Foggie said it was hard for poor teenagers to grow in golf.
“You have to be close to the game to learn the game,” he said. “If you don’t have the opportunity to be with someone who plays golf, it is very difficult for young and old to learn about golf. It’s a lot easier to get into golf now than it was in my time. At the moment, many parents can bring children to play golf. I hope reading this article will motivate you to learn more about golf. Not every child will make it in football or basketball. Golf is now a broad field. “
Foggie said that getting to know people through golf helped him learn more about life.
“The country makes the most important decisions on a golf course,” said Foggie. “We have to bring this word to the children.”
Michael Gaskin, director of Greenwood County’s First Steps, said Foggie was much more than a great golfer.
“He’s an even bigger person,” said Gaskin. “He takes time out with a lot of young people and teaches them the game properly. The last thing you want to do as a golfer is to pick up bad habits right from the start. “
Gaskin said he saw Foggie “move many people to tears” on a golf course.
“They got a good shot and it came back and topped it,” said Gaskin. “But he’s a great family man. He just loves the game. “
Contact author Greg Deal at 864-943-5647 or follow on Twitter