Bobby Jones signed letters to auction for $50,000

Three typed, signed letters from golfer Bobby Jones to Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times are valued at $30,000-50,000.

The lot will cross the block in an auction of golf books and memorabilia in San Francisco on September 17.

Bobby Jones letter
Bobby Jones was president of the PGA until his death in 1971

The letters are of major historical importance.

They relate to a series of scathing articles Murray (considered one of the greatest sports writers of all time) wrote about the exclusion of African-American golfer Charles Sifford from the prestigious Masters tournament.

Sifford (1922-2015) was one of the best golfers of his generation, but he was barred from PGA tournaments because of his race until 1961. He was never invited to the Masters.

The colour barrier stayed in place until 1975, when Lee Elder was extended an invitation.  

Murray, in an article dated 1969, writes: "Charlie Sifford is a golfer, an American, a gentleman. He is not, however, a Caucasian."

This sparked a correspondence with Bobby Jones, then head of the Professional Golfers' Association (PGA).

Jones tries hard to convince Murray that his organisation was not racist. However, he died in 1971 - four years before the first black player was allowed to compete.

At one point Jones writes: "You take issue with my statement that we cannot invite a man simply because he is black.

"You indicate in some way we should make up to Charlie all the years you say golf has barred him."

Sifford has since received the recognition he deserved. He was entered into the Golf Hall of Fame in 2004 and was awarded a Congressional Medal of Freedom in 2014.

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