Tommy Armour Smith, who was America’s first black professional golfer, has died aged 84. Smith was selected as the 1988 US PGA golfer of the year – the first African American chosen for the same award since Martin Lomax in 1940.
Smith earned his place in golf history after becoming the first black professional to win a tournament on an LPGA Tour level tour. He played in 47 LPGA events and held the course record at Lake Buena Vista in Florida for a distance of 191 yards for 37 years before it was replaced by Natalie Gulbis’ 275-yarder in 2010.
Smith’s career began with the Southern Open on the US circuit in 1955, and while he never competed on a British Tour he was a regular on the American circuits with a combined total of seven victories – including four at the Greater Greensboro Open and two more at the Mason Wright PGA Championship, where he defeated the eventual champion, Jack Nicklaus, in a playoff.
Smith has been inducted into both the International Golf Hall of Fame and the PGA Hall of Fame and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 1984.
Smith has been replaced by the 14-time major winner Tiger Woods as the first African American player to earn the coveted green jacket.