Herbert Dixon isn't a name known to many local sports fans, and that's too bad.
That's because the annual Herbert Dixon Charity Golf Tournament will be held at Bartow Golf Course this Saturday, Jan. 5.
And notice it isn't a memorial event, because as he nears age 100, Dixon himself will be swinging right alongside the rest of the linksters who will be teeing it up.
A former valedictorian at Union Academy, Dixon taught himself the game while caddying in Bartow. He wasn't allowed to play on the course where he caddied, because he's black, but still managed to sneak out behind the caddy shack to hit balls when no one was looking.
He got so good at the game, he was a regular in the 1940s and 1950s on the United Golf Association Tour. His career highlight came in 1951, when he won the National Negro Open in Jacksonville, shooting a final round 68 to topple Charlie Sifford, the most accomplished black golfer of the era — and the only one to ever be enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine.
“He’s an inspiration to all of us,” said Chris Banks, the pro there.
Just three months ago, Dixon was honored with the “Spirit of Bartow” award.
In 1992, he was inducted into the African-American Golfers Hall of Fame, and six years after that became a member of the National Black Golf Hall of Fame.
In all, he claims more than four dozen tour titles – although there were so many that he really doesn't know exactly how many tournaments he won.
Not bad for a kid who spent a lot of his youth either studying, caddying or picking fruit.
In addition to his career on the golf course, Dixon made his living as a truck driver for many decades, and also did security work for Polk County Public Schools.
Even into his 90s, Dixon was regularly shooting rounds in the 70s at Bartow Country Club.
Among those on hand this weekend for the event will be former PGA stars Andy Bean, a Lakeland native, and Jim Dent, one of the most successful black golfers, winning a dozen times on the PGA Senior Tour.
Through the years, Dixon's tournament has raised more than $45,000 in college scholarship through the event's sponsor, the Bartow Deacons and Stewards Alliance, Inc.
The Bartow Golf Course is located at 190 S. Idlewood Drive. Check-in time is 7 a.m. Tee-off time for the four-person scramble is at 8 a.m.
For more information, contact Carver Young at 863-533-1207, or online at email@example.com.