Monday, June 3, 2019

Sonny Guy Golf Course Renamed for Pete Brown

The city of Jackson renamed the municipal golf course for Pete Brown at a ceremony Friday.  The Jackson native began his golfing career as a caddie at the municipal golf course and became the first black golfer to win a PGA  tournament.  He had 356 PGA starts.  The Jackson City Council voted unanimously to change the name of the golf course.

To say golfing was in Brown's blood is putting it mildly.  Polio, racism, or a lack of sponsors couldn't keep him from becoming a pro golfer.  He snuck on the city course as a youngster to learn how to play golf.   Unfortunately, the polio virus almost derailed his golfing career - and life. tells the story:

But in 1956 at the age of 19, he became sick, losing control of his muscles. He was living in Detroit at the time and doctors weren't sure of the cause. In the book, "Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African-Americans in Golf", Brown said he was a low priority in a segregated facility.

"They gave me up for dead," Brown told the book's author, Pete McDaniel. "The doctor told me if I did survive, I'd have to give up golf because I'd be in a wheelchair the rest of my life."

His condition grew worse as he lay in a hospital bed. But he was fortunate to have some celebrity visitors.

Boxing legend Joe Louis, a big golfer, joined Charlie Sifford -- who would soon break golf's color barrier as the first official TOUR pro and eventually become the first African-American inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame -- one day to check on Brown. But Brown did not recognize them, so Louis left an autographed picture on his bed.

Had it not been for the picture of Louis, Brown may never have been cured.

"The doctor saw the picture and told me I must be an important guy to have Joe as a friend," Brown said in Uneven Lies. "They started treating me better."

The diagnosis was non-paralytic polio.

"I couldn't move any muscles," Brown told the Augusta Chronicle in a 2012 story. "They were all gone. So I practiced using my muscles all day and all night. Finally one day I got my hands to move. I told the nurse and she couldn't believe it. It was torture, to tell you the truth."

After 11 months in bed, Brown went through physical therapy. In 1958, he felt good enough to resume his competitive golf career. Now he set his sights on the PGA TOUR. He moved to Los Angeles to gain experience and by July 1963, he received his card, having acquired two signatures from Class A PGA pros after passing a playability test.

 He began playing "colored-only" golf tournaments  He became the assistant golf pro to Sonny Guy at the Jackson Municipal Golf Course.   He began to win on the tour.

June 29, 1960 (Clarion-Ledger)

The city progressively (sarcasm) opened a "Negro Golf Course" in 1960 at Grove Park.  Mr. Brown became the head pro - for the nine-hole course.  

September 20, 1960 (Clarion-Ledger)

 He continued to win tournaments.

February 25, 1961
He managed to play his way onto the PGA tour and began to compete for wins.  

January 12, 1963

1964 was a big year for the young golfer as he became the first black golfer to win a PGA Tour event.

May 4, 1964

May 12, 1964
 Brown nearly won another tournament but lost to Billy Casper in a sudden death playoff in California.

November 4, 1964
He struggled with back problems but still competed on the PGA tour.  It would be some time before he won again. 

July 28, 1968
Perseverance paid off for Pete as he won again in 1970 and grew popular on the tour.

February 5, 1970

March 20, 1970
The city of Jackson honored him with a parade.  A far cry for the PGA winner whom the newspaper referred to as  "a colored assistant to the Pro Sonny Guy" just ten years earlier.

June 30, 1970
March 26, 1972
He passed away in 2016 at the age of 80. Augusta honored his passing.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Brown sounds like a wonderful man who broke a lot of barriers and should be honored in some way. However, this golf course was already named for a famous Jackson native. I guess we just toss him aside. I wonder how much the "renaming" ceremony, signage, etc will cost the tax payers - someone needs to realize that the city is broke!! They have more important things to do to try and save the city - then they can rename streets, parks, airports, etc. This makes me insane!!

Anonymous said...

Nothing White is welcome in Jackson... except your tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a worthy chap to name a course after. I would have made too much sense to name the Grove Park course after him.

Anonymous said...

This guy is certainly worthy of being recognized. Although, Mr. Stokes needs to realize that we renamed streets way too often along with parks for a city that is broke. Look along Woodrow Wilson at the 100 yards of honorary signage for a preacher or honorary person that the city names. This is nice but a unnecessary expense. I use Mr stokes as an example because he's generally the person proposing these.

Kingfish said...

Stamps led this one. Learned about Mr. Brown because of this. Great story.

Anonymous said...

Anothee reminder that there aint no sport the white man can create that the black man cant beat him at his own game. Chew on that bigots.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about what improvements this name change will have on the cesspool that surrounds the golf course. Will the amount of shell casings and fast food litter on the streets increase or decrease?

Anonymous said...

This man is certainly worthy of recognition and remembrance; however, we all know what the motive is behind all of the renaming. And it's been the motive for twenty years - not only in Jackson, but especially in Jackson.

Nobody seeing the name of the golf course in five years will have a clue who he was. I always thought that was the purpose of a library, publishing books about who people were....but, Jackson has proved that libraries don't matter. Reading is no longer fundamental. The only reason to remember people now is because of their 'contribution to the struggle' and to continue stoking the embers.

Anonymous said...

Great. Now close the course and the zoo.

Racist has no color said...

Let’s go ahead and replace all the white memorials with blacks and just get it over with.

Anonymous said...

1:10 Try not to let the normal ceremonial proceedings of politicians drive you insane. If you do, you are hopeless. In Jackson, Mississippi this is an honorary event that was really long overdue. Pete Brown's life and accomplishments are worthy of the recognition even if the city of Jackson is going into the dumpster. Putting Brown on the back burner won't help Jackson's leaders to do their job anyway.

Anonymous said...

Great story. I'd never heard of Pete Brown (like @6:48 apparently has never heard of irony... or apostrophes).

I suppose it's nice to see them being a little creative and not just naming another something after Medgar Evers....

Anonymous said...

The state and condition of Sonny Guy isn't worthy to carry Pete Brown's name. This political stunt denigrates Pete's accomplishments.

Anonymous said...

And yet for some reason, Mr. Brown is not in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

Anonymous said...

Who cares!!!

Anonymous said...

This man definitely deserved to have a golf course named after him. I have no problem with the renaming, even if some of the regulars on this site do. After all, most of the people who knew or appreciated who Sonny Guy was have either died or moved out of Jackson, so their opinion doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

I have no doubt that this man suffered some discrimination. But, on another note, golfers (before Arnold Palmer's fame) were all treated basically as second class citizens. They even had to rent their practice balls and other items. Arnie's fame changed that. I was not aware of this man's fame and support his being recognized.

Vote Pandering is Alive said...

They should name it after "Omar the Tent Maker," Stokes' custom suit maker.

Anonymous said...

Some of the street and facility namings that Kenny Stokes and the useless city council sponsor are just pure pandering and wastes of time and resources. But every now and then while they are recognizing every preacher and teacher in Jackson, they recognize some person whose life and deeds should be really highlighted. By everybody. Pete Brown is one of those people. Too bad they don't have a first class facility but this IS Jackson.

Kingfish said...

Pete's life is a great story. Last time I checked, Jackson didn't have any other two-time PGA winners. But of course, if the council had named it after everyone's favorite drinking buddy who just happened to win the local amateur tourney, that's different.

The black golfers who first made the tour had it rough. Forget segregation. They had to worry about something as basic as finding a sponsor. Golfers back then would start out of college, backed by a sponsor. The first black golfers had a tough time finding such. Brown got lucky and found one, then Jim Brown sponsored him for a while.

Disappointed in some of the comments. Instead of celebrating a great golfer, its the same ole same ole take shots at Jackson, make fun of Stokes, and so on.

Anonymous said...

Well deserved. Should be in Sports Hall of Fame.

Anonymous said...

Your right Kingfisher and I didn't provoke them.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with black people in a majority black population city naming things after black role models that are outside a civil rights connection? Kudos to the City Council!

Anonymous said...

Great research KF. Thanks for informing us of a what seems like a great man from our city! Jackson should herald and celebrate all of our citizens that have achieved excellence. Kids need to see that they can go on to achieve greatness despite the horrible situation in Jackson.
Having heroes is inspirational and important. I used to walk around the coliseum and read every plaque with admiration. This man sure sounds like he should be heralded and celebrated.

Anonymous said...

KF, cry me a river. Boo, fucking, hoo.

Anonymous said...

I listed about seven or nine sporting areas in which blacks have not outdistanced whites. Kingfish, for some reason, decided to reject the post and let stand the one claiming black folk rule in all sporting events. That is not true, even though it saddens the Fish.

Anonymous said...

Someone suggested that since anybody who knew of Mr. Guy is dead, it doesn't matter. Another poster suggested that since Jackson is majority black, it's fitting that all these venues be renamed to honor black people.

By that same logic, the mayor and his appointed assistants and first lieutenants, all department heads, 99% of city hall, all clerks in all offices, most judges, a majority of the police force and a majority of city contracts be filled with and held by black folk.

Gotcha! I'm beginning to understand how reparations works.

Anonymous said...

Sonny Guy can return to resting in peace now that his name has been removed. His name had only been associated with cart thefts and poor management over the past 20 years. I would think he approves.

Anonymous said...

@11:35 AM

White people didn't invent swimming, archery, or whatever other bourgeois "sports" you put on your little racist list.

I bet you could take a gold medal in cultural appropriation, though.

Burke said...

My lord, people! Among all of the other obstacles the man had to overcome, he recovered from polio! The course should have been renamed a long time ago.

Some comments came from trolls and can be ignored, but too many came from people who are apparently heartless.

Anonymous said...

8:35am I have personally witnessed the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame selection process and I can assure you that Mr. Brown has been very close to having the votes for induction. He does deserve to be inducted and based on what I have witnessed, he will most likely get into the Hall. Your comments sound like you are accusing the Hall of being racist and intentionally keeping him out. If you haven't been to the MSHOF, then I suggest you make a point of going before making your uneducated statements.

5R5P said...

The biggest winner since the mayor was elected and with this city Council has been Signs First.

Anonymous said...

The race baiters cannot resist tarnishing a well deserved recognition. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Who cares about golf and any other sport??? When MY city, that many of us love is crumbling down? But it's easy for some, because once they are out of office, they can afford to live in any city they like, if they don't already have a house 10 minutes north of downtown. Rename Crime to Safe! Rename POT HOLES to Baby Butt Smooth!!! Stop playing on folks emotions and doing these history lesson, we already know how great our people are. Show your greatness, by leaving the city better than you found it. I guess we can emotionally say that the golf coarse was renamed under this administration. Just Saying!!!

Anonymous said...

"White people didn't invent swimming, archery, or whatever other bourgeois "sports" you put on your little racist list.

I bet you could take a gold medal in cultural appropriation, though.

June 3, 2019 at 12:04 PM"

Hmmm. Lessee. The only two people who know what was on my 'little racist list' (how can a list of sporting events be racist?) are me and...wait for it...Kingfish. I have no idea what 'cultural appropriation is', but no mention was made of inventing anything. The list contained about seven or eight sports in which blacks do NOT, indeed, excel, as claimed by the bigot posting above at 6:48.

Anonymous said...

Wow, sorry, I did not mean to rustle your jimmies. And which part of my statement was uneducated? Mr. Brown is not currently in the MSHOF, correct? I think you may have misinterpreted my sentiment, I am not implying racism in the selection process at all. I am quite familiar with the process, have toured the facility a number of times and have donated money to the museum. Mississippi has a very proud sports legacy and that legacy should be showcased. My intent was to point out, that in my humble opinion as a sports fan and a golf fan, Mr. Brown is very worthy of induction and his accomplishments should be honored.

Anonymous said...

Baby Choc is certainly leaving Jackson's footprint all over Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

The municipal airport was renamed; I keep waiting for the Barnett Reservoir to be a topic of discussion that will bring about a name change. And while we're on the subject, a few years back Jeff Davis County built a new high school. And guess what they named it - Jefferson Davis County High School. The county is majority black. Wonder how whitey slipped that one by? And as for Kenneth "Big Swoll" Stokes goes, he knows exactly what he is doing. He knows that renaming streets and putting out signs that say "Happy Easter" is what is most important to his constituents.

Anonymous said...

1:26 had the post of the day!

And this white guy would love to see the rez renamed. Ross Barnett was a buffoon.

Anonymous said...

Why don’t JSU pour some money into the course and make it there home course, instead of running all over the area and trying to play for free, maybe then the course can be maintained properly. Of course that might not stop them from being robbed on the 16th or 17th tee box lololol

Anonymous said...

@3:25 My apologies. I did misinterpret your comment. Thanks for correcting me. We are clearly on the same page. Mr. Brown is most deserving of induction. Thanks for untwisting my jimmies.

Anonymous said...

7:12 - Of course Ross was a buffoon. Can you name a politician who was not? Male or female.

But, by the way, why does a Reservoir even need to be named after a dead public official? Half the buildings in the Mississippi Delta have the name Charlie Capps appended.

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