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PGA Championship sees second African-American player ever

Wyatt Worthington II’s chance to play comes 25 years after Tom Woodard’s in 1991

Every year, 20 club professionals, give or take, earn the opportunity to showcase their skills on the highest level in professional golf. Countless club professionals of varying ages and skill levels have competed alongside the tour pros during the PGA Championship’s 98-year history. Before Wednesday, when Wyatt Worthington II competed in tournament play, only one of those players had been African-American.

In 1991, Tom Woodard became the first African-American to advance to the PGA Championship, setting a path for other African-Americans like Worthington to follow. Worthington learned more about Woodard’s journey after chatting with the pro golfer earlier this week.

“He told me a bit of his war stories,” Worthington, 29, told ESPN. “I feel like we’re going to be lifelong friends.”

As Worthington achieves his goals in a sport that still seeks to diversify the profession, many questions have focused on Worthington’s thoughts as an African-American club pro.

Asked afterward if he felt more pressure being the second African-American club pro to play in this tournament, he paused for a few seconds before offering a response.

“When I’m over that golf ball, it doesn’t know the color of my skin,” he said. “I’m very proud to be the second African-American, [but] when I’m on the course, I’m really focused on my golf game, not the pigment of my skin.”

It was a perfect answer. The only answer.

Even though he knows his skin color bears no relevance on his final score, that doesn’t mean Worthington doesn’t appreciate the significance of his qualification into this tournament.

“Do I think we need more diversity in golf? I think so,” he said, “just to get more faces involved, to have kids aware that there’s more than just – and I hate to give a cliché – baseball, basketball and football.”

That’s what he learned 15 years ago.

Since then, he’s seen [Tiger] Woods a few times, though he hasn’t spoken with him. He knows that Woods wouldn’t remember one kid from the thousands who attended clinics he’s given over the years, but he’d still like to talk with him.

“I’d thank him and just tell him how much he affected my life,” Worthington said. “Which I’m pretty sure he’s done around the world.”

Read more on ESPN.

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.