Renee Powell began her distinguished golf career on an East Canton, Ohio, course built by her father William, a World War II veteran, during times of racial adversity and segregation. Mr. Powell returned from service to find the war hadn’t changed where he was welcomed to play, so he built his own course: hand-seeding the first nine holes and expanding to a second nine 30 years after opening in 1946. To this day, Clearview Golf Club is the only golf course designed, constructed, owned and operated by a black man.
Under her father’s tutelage, Powell was swinging a club by age three, won more than 30 tournaments as a teen and played college golf—and served as a captain—at both Ohio and Ohio State Universities. In 1967, Powell became just the second African American woman to compete on the LPGA Tour during a difficult time of civil unrest and discrimination. She played in more than 250 professional tournaments and won the 1973 Kelly Springfield Open in Brisbane, Australia, where she set a final-round course record 67. Powell was selected to represent the United States in four team golf matches versus Japan, toured with the USO to Vietnam, and was invited to play with the King of Morocco and President of Zambia.
After retiring from professional golf, Powell dedicated her life to creating more diversity in the game through her work as a golf professional. She built a career in the United Kingdom in the early 1980’s as the first woman to be named head golf professional in the U.K., hosted golf clinics in Africa more than 25 times as an International Goodwill Ambassador and was one of the first female golfers to design her own clothing line. She worked as a television analyst, commentating during numerous tournaments on CBS and ABC. Powell also began lecturing at Black colleges and hosting a clinic to expose the game to more minority communities through a youth golf camp.
Later, Powell returned home to East Canton, Ohio, to keep her father’s legacy of golf for everyone alive as head golf professional at Clearview Golf Club where she continues to focus on growing the game especially for veterans, women and juniors. In 2001, Clearview was named to the National Register of Historic Places, a tribute honoring Mr. Powell’s perseverance to overcome discrimination in golf.
In her own storied golf career, Powell’s gifts back to the game of golf compel accolades. In 2008, she became the first female golfer—and third American—to receive an honorary doctorate from The University of St. Andrews, Scotland, in its now 600-year history. It is one of two honorary degrees she owns. Ten years later, the university named a new residence after Powell, who was the first American, and golfer, immortalized on a building on campus in the home of golf. Powell was the first woman of color to be elected to membership in the PGA of America and was elected the first At-Large Director of its Board.
In 2015, Powell was one of two American women bestowed honorary membership into the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. She has been named the PGA’s First Lady of Golf (2002) and received these awards for her service to the game: LPGA/Rolex’s For the Love of the Game; PGA TOUR Card Walker; USGA Ike Grainger; and LPGA Pioneer. In February 2020, Powell received the Golf Writers Association of America’s Charlie Bartlett Award given to a playing professional for their unselfish contributions for the betterment of society.
In August 2020, Powell received the Donald Ross Award from the American Society of Golf Course Architects; she is just the fifth golf professional to receive this award (with Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus), the only female golf professional and just the fourth woman (Dinah Shore, Judy Bell, and Alice Dye). Powell is passionate about giving back because of the sacrifices her family made—namely her father who was active in the game for 84 years.
“I can’t wait to see the growth from when I first meet each player to when the last ball is picked up from the last hole in the PING Junior Solheim Cup,” Powell said. “I’m excited to be able to see the excitement on [the girls’] faces when they are doing what they love and representing the United States. I am proud that my state of Ohio is the host state for both the PING Junior Solheim Cup and the Solheim Cup.”
Modeled after the Solheim Cup, the PING Junior Solheim Cup biennially features the 12 best female junior golfers (ages 12-18) from the United States against their counterparts from Europe. The team match play event includes foursomes, four-ball and singles matches played over two days and rotates between U.S. and European host sites coinciding with the Solheim Cup. The event includes both teams watching the final days of the Solheim Cup matches at Inverness Golf Club, September 4-6, 2021.
“We’re honored Renee has accepted our offer to captain the U.S. PING Junior Solheim Cup team in 2021,” said John A. Solheim, PING Chairman & CEO. “She’s a true pioneer in the game of golf whose accomplishments speak for themselves and contributions to the sport around the world are long and ever-lasting. Her support of girl’s golf throughout her hall-of-fame career makes her the perfect choice for the captain’s role. She’ll draw on her experience as far back as captaining her college golf teams, to her career on the LPGA Tour, to inspire and motivate her team. I know she’ll leave a positive and life-long impression on every girl who earns their way onto the team. On top of all that, she’s a native of Ohio which brings a wonderful connection for all those who have benefited from her numerous efforts within the state’s golf community.”