Ben Davis is a legend in the Detroit golfing community. He died last week at the age of 101. If you have ever played the course at Rackham Golf Club in Huntington Woods, you probably noticed his photo in the clubhouse.
He was a pro there for more than 50-years. He was a pioneer and in 1968 he became the first African American head golf pro in the country. He taught Joe Louis and Bob Lanier how to play the game. He participated in events with Tiger Woods. He rubbed elbows with Mayor Coleman Young and Dennis Archer.
He was as well respected for his wisdom and demeanor as he was for his prodigious golf game.
Rackham is a placed filled with history. A wonderful part of it, the man, is now hanging out with the golf gods. He will be missed here on earth. The next time you tee it up at Rackham, tip your hat to Mr. Davis and you just may find yourself getting a favorable bounce into the fairway.
The following obituary and funeral information was provided by Davis' nephew Eric King:
Erellon Ben Davis was born February 19, 1912 in Pensacola, FL to Ellis and Belle Davis.
He was a talented golfer as a youth; however there were few opportunities in 1920's Florida for African-Americans in golf.
His instructor, golf pro Toney Penna, encouraged him to leave Florida for better opportunities up north.
Davis moved to Detroit in 1925 and graduated from Northern High School in Detroit. He began his professional golf career in 1936 at the Pine Crest Driving Range in Ferndale, MI.
He began teaching golf at Rackham Golf Course, in Huntington Woods, MI in 1952 where he would become a Class A Head Professional.
In June of 1953 he was joined in holy matrimony to Ruby Nell Day. They were inseparable for the next 57 year until she preceded him in death in 2010. Ben taught golf at Rackham for over 50 years.
He was also the Head Pro at Palmer Park Golf Course in Detroit for a number of years. In 1968, he was the first African-American Head Golf Pro at a municipal golf course in the country. Although he began teaching golf in Michigan in 1936, it would be 30 years before Davis would break the color line at the Michigan PGA.
Ben Davis held the course record at Rackham for eight years.
He became the first African American admitted to the Michigan PGA in 1966. He won the Michigan Senior PGA Championship in 1974 and the U.S. National Senior Tournament in 1979 in Las Vegas.
He was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame in 1992. The Ben Davis Youth Golf Tournament was established in 2000 by the Detroit Recreation Department.
In 2012, he was inducted into the African American Golfers Hall of Fame. Over his expansive career his many students included boxing legend Joe Louis and Detroit Piston's Hall of Famer Bob Lanier
When: Friday April 19th 2013 9:00am - 9:00pm
Location: James H. Cole Home for Funerals - Northwest Chapel
16100 Schaefer Hwy. in Detroit
When: Saturday April 20th 2013 11:00am
Location: Calvary Baptist Church
1000 Robert Bradby Dr. in Detroit
Family Hour 10:30am
Interment Location: Elmwood Cemetery
1200 Elmwood St in Detroit
Book of Memories:
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