Among those attending the Cleveland-area funeral service for the late trailzblazing golf hero Charlie Sifford on Tuesday was Tim Warsinskey of the Cleveland Plain Dealer
. Warsinskey reported
that the service, held at Church of the Savior
in Cleveland Heights, Ohio was probably one Sifford himself would have appreciated:
[T]he service at times felt like friends in a clubhouse regaling one another with stories of golf prowess following a warm afternoon round. More than 200 mourners were able to mix laughter with the tears they also shared inside Church of the Savior's cavernous sanctuary on Lee Road.
"He was a proud African-American man with exceptional talent. He had stature, dignity and emotional toughness that allowed him to endure unjustified, painful experiences in his profession," daughter-in-law Annie Sifford said in her eulogy. "What a giant step Dad took. Dad had an amazing journey, and by grace and strength of character, he was successful."
Gene Grabiec, who was Sifford's assistant pro at Sleepy Hollow, said Sifford once taught him a lesson about golf, and life, after Grabiec hit a fantastic hook shot under a tree limb and between bunkers onto the green. He awaited words of praise; Sifford was silent. After Grabiec made the birdie putt, Sifford finally turned to him and said, "Now it's a good shot.''
Grabiec brought more laughter with a story of Sifford nailing an alligator swimming in a pond 140 yards away. But despite rehearsing his eulogy "four of five times," he broke down in tears on the altar and concluded by turning toward Sifford's flower-draped casket and saying softly, "I love you."
Among the correspondence Sifford's family has received since he passed away on February 3 was a letter, again reported by Warsinskey:
One of those triumphs was reflected in a letter sent to the family this week from a 10-year-old Alabama boy, Quincy Leonard:
"I am thankful to God that we, as Americans, and the world had an opportunity to have him in our lives for 92 years. I never got to meet him personally, but it seems I knew him from reading about him and from my dad talking to me about the struggles that he went through just to play golf. As a 10-year-old black golfer, Dr. Charlie Sifford inspired me to be tough enough when it is hard."
A tribute program given to mourners at the service concluded with a Golf Digest quote from Sifford:
"... and in the end I won. I got a lot of black people playing golf. That's good enough. If I had to do it over again, exactly the same way, I would."
Mr. Sifford, that was more
than 'good enough.'
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