Cigar Aficionado

Charlie Sifford’s Cigar

I attended a banquet this week of the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association. There were a number of honorees, including Judy Rankin and Gary Player, but the Gold Tee award, the group’s highest honor, went to Charlie Sifford, the 86-year-old former PGA Tour professional who broke golf’s color barrier at the professional level.

Sifford regaled the crowd with tales of his early days on the PGA Tour, and thanked everyone for putting him in the company of previous award winners, a distinguished group that includes Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Byron Nelson, and Sam Snead. Last year’s winner was Ernie Els.

Sifford won his PGA Tour card in 1961, forcing the rewriting of the Tour’s “Caucasians-only” rule. He went to win twice on the PGA Tour, and as one of the original members of the Senior Tour, captured its Open Championship in 1975. Sifford also noted that he had endured some “tough times” playing on the tour where he was the subject of threats and racial epitaphs. Player, who introduced Sifford at the banquet, spoke of how courageous his friend of more than 50 years had been during his playing days.

Sifford was also known for playing with a lit cigar. He said he was once asked about why he played with it, almost never removing it from his mouth. He said that on a full swing, he could tell if he was swaying off the ball because the cigar would move and point away from the ball. And, the same thing on his putts; if the ball moved off the end of the burning cigar, he knew he was moving his head and could stop it.

Now I know why I need to smoke more out on the course.

"Mr Mott, Great post. I can see how the cigar would be good as an alignment tool but I personally prefer to leave my cigar to the side when I'm swinging. I feel like I'm giving to much attention to not dropping the cigar or burning myself, and not enough on my swing. But there is no greater way to spend a Saturday afternoon then playing a round of golf with a great cigar. Do you feel that a cigar enhances your golfing experience? " —January 16, 2009 19:32 PM
"Gordon, I do not think that it will improve your golfing, looking forward to see in a couple of weeks, Viva Las Vegas." —June 26, 2008 15:08 PM
"??? I don't know guys....Rule 14.3 artificial devices....unusual use of equipment. May be a stroke or disqualification.?" —June 29, 2008 20:23 PM
"Great blog Mr. Mott, I've actually found good use for my long churchill size sticks on the course for the same reason. I try to use the cigar as an aiming tool by looking down the stick and trying to keep it aligned with the ball. This helps me to keep my head down and eye on the ball during my swing." —June 27, 2008 01:02 AM