Mike Cirba at Cobbs Creek GC 
Cobbs Creek tapped for African American Golfers Hall of Fame

By Mike Cirba
Published January 26, 2016

The Friends of Cobb’s Creek Golf Course are very pleased to announce that the Philadelphia municipal golf course will be honored this year with induction into the "African American Golfers Hall of Fame" (AAGHOF) at a ceremony this May in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The Friends have been asked by AAGHOF Founder and Chairman Malcolm Knowles to attend and give a presentation detailing the rich multi-cultural sporting history of the golf course at the induction ceremonies. 

The AAGHOF was founded in 2005 and celebrates and honors the achievements of African Americans in the game of golf.  AAGHOF is a major sponsor of grassroots youth golf programs and in concert with corporate sponsors annually donates resources to programs that make a difference in communities and schools across the country.   Past inductees have included such golf luminaries as Calvin Peete, Jim Thorpe, Ted Rhodes, and Althea Gibson.

Cobbs Creek turns 100 this year

Cobb’s Creek Golf Course opened for play on May 30, 1916, 100 years ago this spring.   With the centennial approaching, the Friends of Cobb’s Creek Golf Course has been looking for suitable ways to honor the rich heritage of this unique local sports venue.

It may seem surprising to us today but at the time the course was built most public golf facilities throughout the country had racial restrictions that prohibited African American Golfers from using them.  While many African Americans had been exposed to the game earning money by caddying at both private and public courses, most had very few opportunities to develop their games at any "real" courses, often having to resort to makeshift farm fields and caddie yards simply to enjoy this form of competitive recreation.

Cobbs Creek always welcomed black golfers

Thankfully, this was never the case in the City of Brotherly Love.   From the beginning, Cobb’s Creek offered no such restrictions on race, gender, or creed.   It is therefore not surprising that the course became a magnet for African Americans, fostering the development of such great players as Howard Wheeler, who played in the US Open at Merion in 1950, and Charlie Sifford, who became the first African American to win on the PGA tour.   Heavyweight champion Joe Louis was a regular at Cobb’s Creek whenever he was in town and he helped to fund Sifford’s early career.

Cobb’s Creek also hosted the 1936, 1947 and 1956 "National Negro Open", which was the national championship for African American Golfers, won respectively by John Dendy, Howard Wheeler, and Charlie Sifford.   When the PGA tour’s "Daily News Open" was hosted at Cobb’s Creek in 1955 and 1956, golfers like Sifford and Wheeler and others played alongside Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, and other tour stars in what was a very unusual situation as most tour events still prohibited anyone but "Caucasians" from participating. 

Preserving Cobbs Creek’s history

One of the primary objectives of the Friends of Cobb’s Creek Golf Course is to unearth and preserve this rich history.  Not as a stale, archival document simply reflecting former greatness but as a perpetual, living example of what’s possible to achieve during modern times.   We believe one of the most fundamental goals is to improve the integration and synergy between the golf course and the surrounding multi-racial communities in west Philadelphia and adjoining suburbs.  

As such, we’ve been fortunate to have the ongoing support of many current and former residents of the city and surrounds who have been invaluable in directing our efforts.   In the case of this nomination, we were assisted by former long-time Upper Darby resident Leo "Jake" Murray, who currently resides in Florida.   Jake not only has a long-time love for the course he grew up playing, but also is a dedicated researcher of the "Underground Railroad".  

Through Mr. Murray’s research, we were able to learn that the land of the Cobb’s Creek Golf Course was owned by Quaker abolitionists during the 1800s.   These "Friends" built underground tunnels below a popular inn they owned on West Chester Pike which traversed down to the creek near today’s 5th hole.   Fleeing runaway slaves would traverse northward up through the creek attempting to lose the scent from bounty hunters and their dogs. 

The Friends of Cobb’s Creek Golf Course would like to thank Mr. Murray for his continued assistance in this process which has resulted in the nomination and coming induction of the golf course to the "African American Golfers Hall of Fame".   More detailed information about the induction ceremony and participants will be provided here as plans are finalized.   Thank you for your interest and continued support.

Mike Cirba, Joseph Bausch, and the Friends of Cobb’s Creek Golf Course.



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Joe[2/18/2016 2:00:10 PM]
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