It would not have been possible without his hard work and determined decision to tackle his racial background in the media
A golf great who played as a British-born Black professional during a particularly searing racial week on the club circuit has died aged 86. Sir Ian Ferguson was one of the game’s first black players, who performed with distinction for more than 50 years until retirement in the 1980s.
Ferguson, known to many as “Fergie”, was born the son of a White father and a Black mother at a time when clubs would only hire an “Aryan” caddie on racial grounds. Ferguson, a sports writer, put on play for the first time on a famous links in 1958. He only played for four years because he felt it would jeopardise his education, but his record as one of the most prolific birdies machine players of the day is unparalleled.
After winning the British Amateur Golf Championship in 1960, Ferguson returned to the South West of England as the new “Black Black” at his club, Rydeham on Devon, where his female partner brought him champagne and bottles of cola. Ferguson was then joined by his Black caddie, “Timmy”, who fetched up with Ferguson at St Andrews after the Club Championship there.
“Being one of the first Black players, very often I would be asked where I came from,” Ferguson said in later life. “I would have to say I was a Welshman, but eventually I told them I was from where I was born. After that it would be on and on and I thought, ‘This is wonderful.’ I made my debut in Lytham back in September 1960, beating a Sherborne player by two, and winning the Southern Amateur [S&A] Cup.”
He turned professional at the age of 17, and started playing at The Belfry and Royal Porthcawl and became an increasingly regular player in Europe before being selected by the Australian Open in 1963, finishing in fourth place. In Scotland the following year he won the Amateur Championship before being selected for the 1964 US Amateur Championship, and qualified for the Open championship in Washington in 1967. He never did win the US title but would later be awarded the Silver Medal for his achievement in allowing others to follow his path.
Following his retirement he became a radio presenter for the BBC, writing television and golf films. He was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award at the Dunhill Links Championship in 2003.
Ferguson is survived by his three children and two grandchildren.