Ann Gregory: criminally forgotten in sporting history

Sophie McNally reminds us of one of sports most mesmarising forgotten figures - Ann Gregory.

Sophie McNally
4th March 2021

Ann Gregory is a truly mesmerising figure, her broader impact on golf enabled her to take a key role in the fight against racism. After reading about her legacy on the sporting stage, I felt incredibly disrespectful for not knowing about such a phenomenal sportsperson and role-model. 

Gregory was one of the first black female golfers on the golfing scene, with her breakthrough at the 1956 Women’s Amateur Championship in Indiana. Despite her nail-bitingly close loss to Cudone by just a single stroke, Gregory still managed to take the game by storm.

No matter how much contemporaries tried to disadvantage her, she would still come out on top. These obstacles to her progress did not, and would not, stop coming., but this certainly didn’t stop her pathway to success. For instance in later years, at Gleason Park golf course, Gregory refused to use the ‘blacks only’ decrepit nine-hole course - insisting on the primed, full eighteen-hole one exclusive to whites instead. The shocked reactions were met by her indifference, and she was thankfully able to play what she asked for. This embodies the abhorrence of racist attitudes towards Gregory, and her determination to rise above it all and be the best golfer she could be. We should most certainly not allow her to be forgotten again.

We should most certainly not allow her to be forgotten again.

Unfortunately, by and large, Gregory’s contributions to golf have been ignored. During her life, she was thanked and glorified by African-American newspapers as “The Queen of Negro Women’s Golf”. Whereas the New York Times only granted her a shameful two references. Sadly, this seems to match the current narrative too. It has forgotten Gregory’s memory to a criminal extent. Ann Gregory was only added to the ‘National African-American Golfers Hall of Fame’ in 2011. At the even later date of 2016, she was included in the USGA (United States Golf Association) ‘Museum’ that commemorates key golfing figures.

Although the by-law that limited the game of golf to those of “the Caucasian race” was repealed twenty-nine years before Gregory’s death in 1990, the effects of racism were, and are, still felt within golf. Ultimately, we certainly cannot continue to overlook such a crucial figure who embodied all the best qualities of a sportsperson, and truly started to break the mould for African-American competitors.  She was an inspiration for both women and African-Americans alike, and must be remembered as such.

Featured image: Twitter@MichealEaves

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AUTHOR: Sophie McNally
Deputy Editor, History undergraduate, UB's The Spectrum alum and former KultureHub staff writer.

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  1. Sophie, I just came across your article on Ann Gregory. I had exactly the same reaction when I first heard of Ann after reading a Sports Illustrated article on her life published in 1991 shortly after her death. I spent 25 years thinking about her and her impact on golf, sport and society. When I retired in 2016 I went to work writing a screenplay about Ann. It was more a catharsis than any expectation of it coming to light. I see you published this article in March ‘21. That is just about the time the screenplay got ‘Green Lighted’ for production. The title is “Playing Through”. We filmed it in late May early June. We are a month away from finishing the edit. Thank you for your article, I think it is spot on. If you would like to know more about our film please contact me by email. Regards, Curtis

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