Posted On: Mar 9, 2021
Located a few miles east of downtown Canton, sits a golf course that symbolizes equity and opportunity through the sport of golf. Each fairway, bunker and green of the Clearview Golf Club serve as parts of the story of how a Black man fought through discrimination to create a major part of golf history, black history, but more importantly a significant part of American history.
William "Bill" Powell began playing golf and caddying at the age of nine on a golf course near his hometown of Minerva, Ohio. Bill and his brother started the first golf team ever at Minerva High School and in college. After high school he wasn't welcome at the same courses he had played as a member of the high school golf team. Bill served in the U.S. Army Air Corp during WWII and played golf in England on his off days, which reenergized his love for the game.
After fighting for his country, Bill faced racial discrimination from a number of golf clubs when he returned home. So, in 1946, Bill began building his own course by hand on an old dairy farm, providing himself the chance to pursue his passion and the option for anyone to come play a round. Clearview is the first golf course built and owned by a Black man. The course celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Bill passed on his love of golf to his two children, Larry and Renee, who work together to maintain and operate the historic public course today.
"I have been playing since I was three years old. I walked, I talked and I played golf," said Renee.
Powell family, circa 1965
Born the same year that her father began building the course, Renee had a place to play from the very beginning and made a career out of it. After serving as a team captain on both the Ohio and The Ohio State University golf teams, she turned professional in 1967, becoming only the second African American woman to do so. Renee made 250 professional starts worldwide and won the 1973 Kelly Springfield Open in Australia and has been labeled a trailblazer for Black women in golf.
These days Renee works to help others find an appreciation for the sport, much like her father did with her. In addition to her work as a head golf pro at Clearview, Renee runs the Clearview HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) program, a cost-free, year-round recreational and therapeutic golf program specifically for women veterans.
This September, Renee will serve as team captain of the U.S. PING Junior Solheim Cup, which features the 12 best teenage female golfers in the U.S. against their counterparts in Europe. Annika Sörenstam will serve as the European Captain. The junior event will precede the Solheim Cup event for the professionals at Inverness Club in Toledo, which serves as the sixth stop on the 2021 Ohio Professional Golf Trail.
Renee says the Ohio golf trail this year will expose more people, both golfers and spectators, to all Ohio has to offer. "There is so much for people to see and visit," said Renee. "It will be exciting to have all of these golf tournaments across our state, especially since a lot of great golfers have come out of Ohio."
Renee is among many of those greats, thanks in large part to her father, who broke down racial barriers in the game of golf by building Clearview Golf Club.