The USGA Golf Museum and Library is the nation’s oldest sports museum and the world’s leading institution for the collection, preservation, interpretation and dissemination of golf history. Its collections, the world’s largest and most significant related to the game of golf, serve as the foundation of its diverse roles, services and initiatives.
As part of this effort, the USGA Golf Museum and Library operated a free exhibit, entitled “Hard-Earned Glory,” highlighting the game’s rich history of diverse golf heroes. More than 50 artefacts, photographs and accompanying text elevated the powerful stories of iconic and lesser-known participants and champions – each of whom have overcome exceptional physical, mental, and emotional challenges to compete.
“This exhibit places the history of the U.S. Open into a broader social and cultural context,” said Hilary Cronheim, senior director of the USGA Museum. “Our hope is that fans leave with a more expanded understanding of inclusion, what it means to compete in the U.S. Open, and that they fully appreciate that the history of golf is diverse and multi-layered.”
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Highlights of the exhibit include:
- A golf club made and used by John Shippen, ca. 1896, as the USGA reaffirmed what it means to be an “open” championship through the participation of Shippen, an African American, and Shinnecock Indian Oscar Bunn.
- A mashie niblick used by Francis Ouimet in the 1913 U.S. Open. As a 20-year-old amateur and son of working-class immigrants, Ouimet made history in 1913 at The Country Club when he defeated Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in one of the most monumental underdog stories in sports history.
- A United Golfers Association (UGA) trophy won by Jack Shippen in 1927. African Americans excluded from private clubs and public courses formed their own organizations, providing spaces for both enjoying the game as a recreational activity and cultivating golf talent. Founded in 1925, the (UGA) offered opportunities for high-level competition for Black amateurs and professionals during decades of discrimination.
- A golf towel used by Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods redefined professional golf with his dominating play, athleticism, power, and charisma. In 2008, Woods battled through an injured knee and leg to win his ninth USGA championship in a dramatic 19-hole playoff.
Executive Committee member George W. Blossom Jr. proposed the USGA create a golf museum in 1935. However, there was little space to store or display artefacts in the Association’s New York City headquarters. When a new, sizeable location for USGA offices was found in January 1936, the Executive Committee formally voted to establish a museum and to collect and exhibit “implements, balls, etchings, photographs, literature and similar articles pertaining to the game of golf.” Soon, the humble hallway displays were filled with iconic artefacts donated by the game’s most celebrated players and administrators who wished to preserve their legacies and inspire future generations.
From that time on, the USGA Golf Museum and Library has been a prominent part of each USGA headquarters, growing larger and more sophisticated with the ever-multiplying collection. The current state-of-the-art Museum in the historic John Russell House has been expanded twice since the USGA’s 1972 relocation to Liberty Corner, N.J. with the addition of the Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History in 2008 and the Jack Nicklaus Room in 2015.
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