Bill Powell receives PGA’s top honor

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The PGA of America has named William J. (Bill) Powell of East Canton, Ohio, as the recipient of the 2009 PGA Distinguished Service Award.

The association’s highest annual honor goes to “the only African-American to design, build, own and operate a golf course while pioneering diversity in the game,” according to the PGA.

Powell, 92, and a PGA Life Member, will be honored in conjunction with the 91st PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. The award presentation will be conducted Aug. 12, in downtown Minneapolis.

“William Powell’s dream to build a golf course where players regardless of the color of their skin would be welcome was a task that he met under great duress, hardship and personal sacrifice,” said Jim Remy, PGA of America president. “Yet, Mr. Powell displayed exceptional courage, grace and the finest character while persevering toward his goal of opening Clearview Golf Club.

“He and his family represent the best in our sport and what it means to treat one’s neighbor with dignity and respect. The PGA of America is extremely proud to be presenting Mr. Powell, a legend in our time, with the 2009 PGA Distinguished Award.”

Powell is the father of PGA and LPGA professional Renee Powell, the second African-American to compete on the LPGA. Renee is the PGA head professional at Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio, where she is joined by her brother, Larry, a member of the Golf Course Superintendents of America.

In September 1946, Bill Powell received the financial backing of two black physicians in nearby Canton and Massillon, Ohio, to begin building a public golf course. Powell added his own part of the necessary capital after his brother, Berry, took out a loan on his home.

In April 1948, nine holes opened for play on the former dairy farmland. A decade later, Powell bought out his partners and added an additional 52 acres for a second nine holes.

The complete 18-hole layout was opened for play in 1978. Clearview Golf Club is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“This is quite an honor, and it is something I savor due to so many good people in The PGA that made it happen,” Powell said. “I am so humbled to have people think this way of me. I have had so many special things happen to me, I believe, because golf sees no color. It is a game that brings out the best in people and it is vital to young people. Golf means nothing but good. If you can get young people in the game, then they are good for all their lives.”

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