The Powell family of Canton, Ohio, who were pioneers in breaking down racial barriers in the game of golf, will be the recipient of the 2019 Old Tom Morris Award from GCSAA.
The family includes the late Bill and Marcella Powell and their children, Lawrence and Renee. (Pictured, from left: Renee, Marcella, Bill and Lawrence.) Bill Powell was an entrepreneur and pioneering golf course owner who opened Clearview Golf Club in Canton in 1948. The integrated course was the first and is the only to be designed, constructed and owned by an African-American. Bill was a member of GCSAA for 37 years prior to his death in 2009.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Lawrence Powell, a 44-year member of GCSAA, serves as golf course superintendent at Clearview. Renee Powell was the second African-American woman to join the LPGA Tour, which she was part of from 1967 to 1980. Today, she is the teaching professional at Clearview. Three of the Powells are also members of the National Black Golf Hall of Fame. Bill was inducted in 1996, Renee in 2006 and Lawrence in 2016.
GCSAA’s highest honor, the Old Tom Morris Award has been presented annually since 1983 to individuals who, through a lifetime commitment to the game of golf, have helped mold the welfare of the game in the manner and style exemplified by Old Tom Morris. Morris, a four-time Open Championship winner, was the longtime superintendent at St. Andrews in Scotland until his death in 1908.
“It means a great deal to receive the Old Tom Morris Award from GCSAA,” says Lawrence. “It shows a recognition and appreciation for us, and it’s a great honor to come from my association. I know my father would have said the same thing.”
Bill discovered the game at age 9 and was a member of the Wilberforce University golf team. The first golf match played in the United States between a white college and an historically black college was in 1937 between Wilberforce and Ohio Northern, and Bill was part of that team.
Clearview, an 18-hole course that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, would set the stage for the careers of Lawrence and Renee. Lawrence began mowing the fairways at age 8. Both Powell children knew from an early age the significance of the course their father and mother had founded.
“It was explained to me even when I was very little,” Lawrence says. “It was a golf course for everyone. My dad would say anyone could play as long as they played by the rules.”
Bill Powell’s vision lives on through the Clearview Legacy Foundation for Education, Preservation and Turfgrass Research, a 501(c)(3) organization that was established in 2001. The foundation was created to “preserve the Clearview legacy and facilities for future generations.” The PGA of America also recognized Bill Powell’s impact on the game, honoring him posthumously in 2009 with its Distinguished Service Award.
Lawrence and Renee Powell will officially receive the Old Tom Morris Award Feb. 6 during the Opening Session of the 2019 Golf Industry Show in San Diego.
“Just as Old Tom Morris was an innovator who changed the face of the game on many fronts, so has the Powell family influenced the game to it change for the better,” says GCSAA President Darren J. Davis, CGCS. “GCSAA is honored to recognize not only two of our own in Bill and Larry Powell, but the whole family for their work in making golf a more welcoming place for everyone.”
View the complete list of past Old Tom Morris Award winners.