Seeing as the game of golf can be traced back to the Song Dynasty in China — and its more contemporary roots dating back to 1457 in Scotland — there are countless iconic moments that have been made a part of history thanks to the sport.
From triumphs to moments that made audiences around the world shed a tear, here is a list of the five most iconic moments in golf history, in no particular order:
The year was 1960 — Jackie Robinson had already broken baseball’s color barrier, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus in Alabama, and the Civil Rights Movement was sweeping the nation. In spite of all these revolutionary happenings, African Americans were still barred from playing in the PGA Tour.
After years of relentless pressure and the looming threat of legal action, the PGA finally succumbed and dropped the rule in 1961, allowing all people to participate in the Tour.
In spite of his circulatory disorder, Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, Martin wanted to play on the PGA Tour of 1998. However, he would require transportation around the course, as his atrophied right leg could easily snap if he made one wrong step. Although they were well aware of his condition, the PGA refused to allow Martin to ride around the course in a golf cart.
Heartbroken and indignant, Martin sued the Tour under the Americans with Disabilities Act and, ultimately, was granted his request. In January 1998, Martin rode to victory in his first and only professional win at the season-opening Lakeland Classic. It was a moment that was described as intense and pride-inducing.
In 1950, the Tampa Women’s Open featured 115 professional players — of which only seven were women. Although many expected the women to flounder and fall out of the rankings early on, two of the top placers were women, Polly Riley and Louise Suggs, with the latter placing first and winning the $1,000 prize for a pro.
This competition marked the beginning of what would become the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association — or the LPGA.
In spite of striking a ball directly into a nearby fan’s forehead, Nancy Lopez had wowed fans with her quirky swing and infectious smile. She was just the personality the LPGA needed to draw more viewers and fans to the sport — and it worked. With nearly the entire country rooting for her success, Lopez went on to win the 1978 Bankers Trust Classic with a 35-foot putt on the last hole — marking her fifth consecutive win.
In the beginning of the 1960s, the long-loved British Open was approaching extinction. Audiences were sparse and disengaged, especially as American players skipped out on the event to pursue greater ventures. However, thanks to Arnold Palmer’s talent, resilience, and ineffable charm, he not only attracted the audience necessary, but won the event entirely in 1960. He went on to defend his title the next year.