The Keney Links, a Hartford golf club for black women, turns 60 – Hartford Courant

In 1962, a group of black women from the Hartford area came together to organize a golf club in Keney Park. Among them were an artist, a doctor, housewives, teachers and self-proclaimed “golf widows”.

They called themselves the Keney Links and this year they celebrate their 60th anniversary. On Sunday at Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford, the club is hosting a fundraising golf tournament and banquet.

“They were interested in learning to play, they took lessons, they played the game the way it’s meant to be played,” said Bloomfield’s Edna Jordan, who has been a member of the club since 2006 and is the club’s current chairman. . “They were very strict when they played. They became great golfers.

The Keney Links joined the Southern New England Women’s Golf Association and their president, Billie Duval, became SNEWGA’s first black president in 1965. Due to their membership in SNEWGA, the Keney Links became the first black female golfers to compete in previously all-white tournaments in Connecticut and other states.

No doubt women were inspired when, in 1961, the PGA removed its all-white clause from its bylaws and that year, Charlie Siford became the first black golfer to earn a PGA Tour card. When Sifford – who was a friend of Billie Duvall and her husband – came to Hartford to play at the Greater Hartford Open (which he won in 1967), he attended a banquet hosted by the Keney Links. Sammy Davis Jr., a co-sponsor of what would become the Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open, headlined their “Golfers’ Ball” in 1973 and Lee Elder would also make appearances at Keney Links events.

In October 1972, the Courant wrote an article on its “World of Women” page about the Keney Links. The women explained that the club was not trying to make a social or racial statement – ​​they just wanted to play golf.

“I guess there’s been a lot of talk [about the club]but it was never overt,” Duval, a physical education teacher at Bulkeley High School, told Le Courant.

Irene Pittman, the grandmother of Nykesha Sales who is now 98, was there when the club started. She was athletic and played golf and bowling.

“When you were home with your husband, it was boring,” said Pittman, of Bloomfield, who played golf until he was 90. “We used to play, but the men didn’t want us to play with them, so we organized our own club. They wouldn’t let us play on Sunday. We had to play after that. That was it.

“We had our time to play. You couldn’t play at some golf courses but being a member of SNEWGA they let us play. I met many people. We played every morning and we liked to play with each other. You have met many friends.

Lori Riley can be reached at [email protected]

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