Here’s to 80 years of the Bronze!

Submitted photo (l-r) Henry Rucker, George Mburu, Darwin Dean, Fred Kreutzfeldt, Tim Swanson and L.J (front).

Long ago, a determined Jimmy Slemmons started one of the first golf tournaments for Black Americans in the U.S. right here in Minneapolis. The Bronze Amateur began in 1939, back when things were, you could say, a bit different. We as a people could not vote; we literally had to fight just to live.

The game of golf, like tennis, has long been perceived as an elitist sport, one for White country club members who could afford to play privately among friends, while Blacks were forced to caddie.

Slemmons’ Bronze golf tournament caught on in Minnesota and word spread that Black players who could play could compete. The Bronze was a 36-hole tournament for many years and was a summer social success in the Black community. To think that heavyweight champion Joe Louis once played in the Bronze speaks volumes. Slemmons’ passion and vision guided the tournament and it grew year after year.

But over time, as we grew as a people and expanded our rights to equality and the pursuit of the American dream, the Bronze lost some of its meaning. Slemmons eventually passed the Bronze on for safekeeping to the Twin Cities Golf Club and its members Thad Nicolas and Dick Kelly.

Eventually, the capable Darwin Dean took over and has managed the Bronze since 2012.

This year, Dean had historic photos positioned all over the course on tee boxes reminding the 2019 players of the continuing, landmark historic tradition.

This year’s Bronze was held Saturday, July 27, as many have been held the last weekend in July. The tournament was held at Theodore Wirth in Golden Valey, a great test of golf established in 1916.

It was hot, 88 degrees, and the course was in good condition. KMOJ’s Walter “Q-Bear” Banks Jr. was master of music, spinning tunes before, during and after the competition.

Submitted photo Historic photos were positioned throughout the course at this year’s Bronze tournament.

Louis King and his talented crew provided a tasty BBQ meal for the 80 hungry golfers after their 18-hole round. Due to health reasons, the great Ed Manderville did not play this year.

It was a thrill for me to be a part of the 80th Bronze. Since moving to Minneapolis in 1978 and taking up the game, the history of the Bronze has moved me. Ex-Vikings star Teddy Brown played with me and shot 86 and won a $200 Skin. 

Thinking of many friends we’ve lost over time who played in this tournament makes playing this year even more special. People like Richard Green, Clyde Smith, Vince Wilson, Jack Smith are a few names stuck in our memories. Thanks to all the competitors who played and the winners of the different flights of the 2019 Bronze. Here’s to the 80th Bronze!

2019 Bronze Winners: Men’s Champion: Toby Crain, 75; Second: Maurice Kumenda, 76; Third: Bobby Ongechi, 79; Women’s Champion: Ann Thompson, 91; Second: Deanna Struthers, 100; Third: Pam Stoddard,109; First Flight Men: Corey Scroggins, 85 (won playoff); Second: Jesse Dolina, 85; Second Flight Men: Arthur Cofield, 95; Second: Kevin Foote, 96; Senior Men: Ron Wilson, 81; Second Charles Rodgers, 83; Third: Ron Benford, 86; Super Seniors Champion: Bob Shelton, 90; Senior Women Champion: Vickie Burns,  84; Second, Lynette Landry, 85; Third, Fayneese Miller, 97.