Charlie Sifford, who broke golf's color barrier, dies at 92

    Story highlights

    • Charlie Sifford joined the PGA Tour in 1961 at age 38
    • He won two Tour events, the first in 1967
    • Tiger Woods calls his death a terrible loss

    (CNN)Charlie Sifford, the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour, died Tuesday at age 92, the Professional Golfers' Association of America said.

    "His love of golf, despite many barriers in his path, strengthened him as he became a beacon for diversity in our game," PGA of America President Derek Sprague said in a statement. "By his courage, Dr. Sifford inspired others to follow their dreams. ... Golf was fortunate to have had this exceptional American in our midst."
      Sifford was called the Jackie Robinson of golf for breaking the color barrier in 1961 when he was 38 years old.
      "I wanted to prove that a black man could play golf," he told CNN affiliate WEWS after he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November.
      His son told the station that his father was advised by Robinson to use his smooth swing to fight the integration battle.
      "Which I think is the way he went through his struggles -- smooth, quiet," Craig Sifford told the station.
      Unlike Robinson, who took the field with eight teammates, Charlie Sifford played an individual's game.
      "It didn't bother me. It wasn't going to stop me," Sifford said.
      Tiger Woods referred to Sifford as a grandfather.
      "Terrible loss for golf and me personally. My grandfather is gone, and we all lost a brave, decent and honorable man. I'll miss u Charlie," Woods tweeted.
      Jack Nicklaus said Sifford was his playing partner for the first two rounds Nicklaus played in a PGA Tour event. He called Sifford a kind and gracious gentleman.
      "Charlie led by example, handling himself with great class and dignity inside and outside the ropes," Nicklaus said on his website. "We can't underestimate the impact Charlie's career has had on the face of golf today. Charlie was a leader and an inspiration."
      Sifford won two PGA Tour events, his first victory coming in the 1967 Greater Hartford Open. He also won at the Los Angeles Open two years later.
      It was a difficult career. In his speech honoring Sifford at the White House, President Barack Obama talked about Sifford's travails.
      "Charlie was sometimes banned from clubhouse restaurants. Folks threatened him, shouted slurs from the gallery, kicked his ball into the rough," the President said. "Charlie's laughing about that -- my ball is always in the rough."
      On Wednesday the President said he was honored to award the golfer the Presidential Medal of Freedom "for altering the course of the sport and the country he loved."