Ben Davis, the first African-American in the Michigan PGA and a member of the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, has passed away at the age of 101.
Eric King, Davis' great-nephew, confirmed that Davis died Tuesday morning.
Funeral arrangements are still being worked out and were not available immediately.
The family forwarded the following obituary:
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.
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