By Vince Moses
Cliff won the 14th Annual Negro Open Championship in Los Angeles in 1939.
My wife Cate and I wrote the centennial history of Victoria Club, whereupon we learned of Cliff Strickland, Ed Strickland, and Dudlums McCoy, all caddys at the Club during the 1930s-40s. Cliff rose to the rant of Caddy Master and held the course record of 65 for a number of years, until broken by Second Lt. Beranrd A. Schriever, US Army Air force (later four star heneral in SAC).
Cliff’s brother Ed served as the first Black Captain in the Riverside Fire Department, and helped douse the fire that destroyed the VC clubhouse in 1944. Ed know to go straight to the caddy shack, in order to save the members’ equiptment.
Cliff played in the famous 1936 “Paid-to-Play” Pro-Am Tournament at VC. The local papers proudly trumpeted the fact that he was the Caddy master at VC, and the local Negro player, even though the PGA had a ban on black players in PGA sanctioned tournaments! Cliff played alongside such golfing legends at Walter “the Haig” Hagan, Byron Nelson, Jimmy Hines and Ben Saracan.
Cliff later won the National Negro Open Championship at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Brothers Ed and Earl also played on that tournament.
Cate and I theorize that the era of Jim Crow led to the rise of skilled black golfers through their work as caddys for the private golf club elite. Both before tee time, and on off days for members, the caddys were allowed to play the course, and they did. Cliff and his crew. often began at 6:00 in the morning, in order to get in eighteen holes before the 9:00 members’ tee time. Its unfortunate for Cliff that the PGA excluded black golfers from its ranks. He had what it took to be a big name player.