United Golfers Association (UGA), a black golf organization that was founded in 1925 and served as a parallel institution to the all-white Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) that was formed nine years earlier in 1916. Along with many other activities, the UGA operated a national golf tour for professionals, amateurs, and intercollegiate golfers, and it continued to host events well after the desegregation of the PGA in 1961.
Similar to the story of baseball’s Negro Leagues and their central place in American culture, the UGA also featured African Americans who used professional sport to carve out autonomous sites for leisure, business, and fandom. As the only national professional golf tour for black players in American history, virtually every black pro before Tiger Woods experienced playing in UGA events, a long list that includes John Shippen, Robert “Pat” Ball, John Brooks Dendy, Howard Wheeler, Charlie Sifford, Bill Spiller, Ted Rhodes, Lee Elder, Jim Thorpe, and Jim Dent. The UGA also supported a full women’s division, which over time featured gifted stars like Marie Thompson, Lucy Williams, Geneva Wilson, Ann Gregory, Thelma Cowans, Ethel (Powers) Funches, Althea Gibson, and Renee Powell.