There’s a reason people want to take pictures with Herbert Dixon every chance they get. That’s because he commands respect when he walks into any room at the working age of 102.
The Bartow native and former professional golfer caddyed hole-to-hole in his own tournament on a glorious Saturday at the Bartow Municipal Golf Course: The Ninth Annual Herbert Dixon Celebrity Golf Tournament – an event used to raise money scholarships to help people pursue their golf dream.
Shortly after hitting the links and enlightening the next generation of golfers, he received an honorary proclamation in front of dozens of community supporters and golf enthusiasts for his stellar professional golf game and nearly nine decades of play. as well as to give back to the community.
Dixon began playing golf during times of segregation, and although circumstances have not facilitated his burning passion for golf, he has a strong amorous desire to help those who want to follow in his footsteps.
“…From the position of how I was riding, (and) the way it is today, that makes me honored and grateful,” Dixon said. You know, I’ve been through the years and I’m still able to help someone achieve their goal in life – something that I couldn’t receive. It makes me feel very, very good.
The centenarian has risen well above the classification of ‘good’ in the game of golf, as there’s not much Dixon hasn’t done on the golf course that continues to inspire people who know the legend. golf.
Starting professional golf at the age of 31, the gregarious golfer won 63 United Golf Association Tour tournaments in the 1950s and beyond – more than 200 trophies in total – and was inducted into the African American Golfers , National Black Golf, West Palm Beach Golfers, Sports Authority and Polk County Sports Halls of Fame.
Dixon’s rise to prominence, however, was not easy in the early 1900s.
Bartow’s hometown golf scholar was born on September 16, 1919, in Dade City. And while he would go on to valedictorian of his class at Union Academy High School in Bartow, Dixon already knew what he wanted to do at the age of 15, when his family moved to Tampa. then to Bartow. Raised to have a professional mindset, Dixon became a caddy at the Bartow Municipal Golf Course – but his goal was to teach himself how to play the game.
“They used to (not) let black people on this golf course. Mr. Dixon was one of the first they wouldn’t leave on this golf course,” said Bartow Deacons and Stewards Alliance, Incorporated President Carver Young.
So after being given a club by a man he was caddying for, the then caddy snuck to the north end of the course and learned to imitate other golfers’ swings and putts, as during segregation, black people were restricted to where and when golfers could play.
Yet it was a passion for Dixon and his friend Richard Lewis, who also worked at Bartow Golf Course, to focus on golf. Working in a mine and picking fruit earned the Bartow native enough money to enter a professional Jacksonville tournament in 1951 – a competition he would go head-to-head against the first black golfer to make it to the PGA Tour, Charlie Sifford. Sifford would run into Dixon, who shot a 69 at the National Negro Open.
Dixon also defeated Lee Elder – the first African-American to compete in the Masters Tournament.
Impressed with Dixon racking up numerous accolades, a local dentist took notice and would eventually sponsor the golfer.
Destinations to Atlanta, Miami, Jacksonville, among other cities, were the new normal for tournaments. And Dixon outright dominated his competition.
Dixon then worked as a truck driver to secure steady employment.
Tourney commemorates former serviceman Corbett; Corbett impacted by Dixon
Once a longtime teacher, track coach and administrator at Union Academy as well as an avid golfer at Bartow Golf Course, Jordan J. Corbett was honored Saturday for his gallantry as a member of the military during the periods of segregation and mistreatment of black soldiers.
Corbett, 99, was part of the Triple Nickles – the first all-black airborne unit renamed the 55th Parachute Infantry Battalion which prepared for Operation Firefly.
In the winter of 1945, during World War II, approximately 9,300 explosive balloons were sent by the Japanese to the west coast. The balloons contained over 70 pounds of explosives and it was Corbett’s job to be a “smoke jumper”, parachuting through burning forests into trees up to 200 feet high and putting out fires in Oregon, among others.
After Corbett was removed from his position in 1946, he started playing golf at Bartow Golf Course, where he meant Dixon. Lewis taught Corbett how to play, but he also learned valuable golf tips from Dixon.
“It’s pretty good because Mr. Dixon is my hero,” Corbett said after being honored at the tournament. ” I know him since a long time. He was earlier than me. He graduated from the same school (Union Academy) about three years before me. … I used to go out and watch him play with Shiny (Lewis). I would always like to see them hit the ball.