"Steal Everything You Can From The Golf Course" Jim Dent
The iconic golfer grew up as a caddie for Augusta National and going to the golf course soon became a big part of his routine. His journey in the sport has helped to pave the way for other Black golfers and his selfless efforts helped to bring many of them into the business and professional side of the industry. Today, his extraordinary accomplishments and perseverance have helped him to be able to enjoy retirement while still engaging in the activities of his favorite passion.
Dent turned professional in 1966 and during his 40-year career struck up four wins on the PGA Tour and a dozen Senior Tour events. When it comes to money, his earnings topped $9,583,989—with the majority of it being earned after he turned 50-years old. Although Jim’s physical strength gained him championships, worldwide notoriety, and status, yet, it was the color of his skin that stifled what could have yielded even more success in the game that he loved so much.
"Steal Everything You Can From The Golf Course" episode 19
“It was hard for us to play on the tour back in the day, you know,” Dent said during an interview in 2017 with the Toronto Observer. “I had a lot of fun golfing. But I enjoy playing this game, and I dreamed about playing with big boys.”
Imagine growing up in the segregated South where you can caddy on a golf course but are not allowed to play on many of them. This was the situation for Dent, yet, he did not let discrimination deter his ambitions.
“Extremely tough. The experience was extremely tough, I started golf as a caddy, I wanted to learn the game. I struggled immensely to get on tour until I grinded enough to make it,” Dent said to the Toronto Observer. When it was time to compete back then, the challenges continued with finding a place to stay/sleep overnight, eat meals, and even change clothes at the golf course, as many locker rooms were strictly off-limits for Black golfers In his hometown of Augusta, Ga., the four Armed Forces golf courses only permitted African Americans to play only on Mondays if they caddied there.
In spite of Dent’s deep passion for golf, he speculated on the future and decided to accept a football scholarship to Paine College in Augusta. However, his golf ambitions grew stronger and he spent the next seven years learning the game, waiting tables, and playing in events hosted by the Black United Golfers Association.
Dent finally made it to the PGA Tour in 1970, nine years after it had been desegregated. In 1972 he was the runner-up in the Walt Disney Invitational. Recalling that time he said, “My best moment,” Dent said. “I finished second to Jack Nicklaus. … in a three-way tie (with Bobby Mitchell and Larry Wood).”
In 1976 Dent won the first of three consecutive Florida PGA Championships. His final PGA win was 1983 Michelob-Chattanooga Gold Cup Classic. After 20 years and $561,008 he joined the Senior Tour in 1989 where he won 12 events, the last one the 1998 Home Depot Invitational. During his lifetime he has enjoyed 40 hole-in-ones.
“The Senior Tour was gravy,” said the Champions Tour player with a laugh to the Toronto Observer. “You didn’t have to worry about making the cut. We knew we were going to get a paycheck every week. (On the PGA Tour) you don’t know if you’re going to get paid… I had a lot of fun on the senior tour, I really got to enjoy it.”
photo credit: Augusta Chronicle
African American Golf Digest