Golf Legend William Powell to Be Honored at PGA Championship

William Powell paved the way for African-Americans in the sport.

ByABC News via GMA logo
August 10, 2009, 5:52 PM

Aug. 11, 2009— -- Tiger Woods' many accomplishments are well documented but, now, an unheralded giant of golf who paved the way for Woods is set to have his day in the sun, after a long and inspiring journey.

For William Powell, 92, the adage that "golf isn't a game, it's a choice one makes with one's life" rings true.

Powell has been encouraging players -- young and old -- to share in his passion for the game of golf for more than 60 years, and he will receive the PGA of America's 2009 distinguished service award Wednesday as the PGA Championship kicks off at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.

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"The thing I like about golf -- it requires honesty," Powell told "Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts. "You can take a minister out and play golf with him and you can find out if he is a believer himself."

But Powell's love of the links wasn't always well received. In the 1940s, when he returned home to a segregated America from World War II, he was not welcome on many courses in his home state of Ohio.

"I just got tired of the -- all the garbage," he said. "Because a fellow's skin was white, he could play at a golf course and I had to wonder whether I could play."

Powell, a gifted athlete who began playing golf at the age of 9 and was captain of his high school team, took matters into his own hands ... literally. He set out to build his own golf course in East Canton, Ohio.

"He was just obsessed, to be frank with it," Powell's son Larry said. "It was something that he wanted to do and he put all his effort mentally, emotionally, physically into accomplishing his goal."

In 1948, with the help of friends and his late wife, Marcella, Powell's field of dreams became a reality.

"I didn't do it for black people," he said. "I built it for everybody."

Clearview Golf Club is the only U.S. golf course designed, built and owned by an African-American.