Michigan Golf Legend Ben Davis Turns 100

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Michigan Golf Legend Ben Davis turned 100 on March 19.

In 1966, Davis became the first African American admitted to the Michigan PGA. In 1968, he became the first African American head pro at a municipal golf course—Palmer Park in Detroit.

Davis was born in Pensacola Florida, and reportedly was an excellent player as a youth. As you might expect, however, he had few opportunities in golf in the Jim Crow South. Davis traveled to Detroit in 1925 on the advice of his instructor, Tony Penna. After graduating from Detroit Northern, Davis worked as a driving range pro starting in 1936 in Ferndale. He also taught at Rackham, a Donald Ross Course in Detroit. Among his pupils was boxing great Joe Louis and Detroit Pistons Hall of Famer Bob Lanier.

Continuing to play excellent golf as a Senior, Davis won the Michigan Senior PGA Championship in 1974 and the U.S. National Senior Tournament in 1979 in Las Vegas.

Davis was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.

I’m pretty sure I saw Davis at Rackham twenty years ago when one of my playing partners pointed out “the guy who taught Joe Louis” in a crowd near the clubhouse. I realize now that I should have left the first tee to go over and shake his hand. I had no idea at the time what a pioneer he was.

Happy belated birthday, Mr. Davis.

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