“To Hell with Them”

This story was adapted from a past edition of our daily newsletter, the Early Tee. Sign up for the Early Tee for more of the mostly unheard stories of golf. 

Bill Powell was born in Greenville, Alabama, but his family moved to Ohio when he was young. He played football and golf in high school and even earned a spot on his college golf team.

Like many young men, Bill went into the military when his country needed him, and he served in England during the War. 

While overseas, Bill got to golf from time to time, and he furthered his passion for the game. 

When Bill’s military service was over, he came home to Ohio and wanted to continue to play the game he’d loved since he started caddying at age nine. 

There was only one problem, Bill had nowhere to play. 

Bill was Black. This was 1946, and none of the courses Bill was allowed to play as a high school athlete would allow him to play now as a Black adult. 

Bill said, “the hell with them.” He decided to build his own course.

Bill found the land, drew up the plans, and went to the bank for a loan. They said no, and so did another bank. 

Bill said, “To hell with them.” He went to his brother and two local, Black doctors for the money, and they supported him. 

In 1948, helped mostly by his wife, doing all the work by hand, and after nearly two years of clearing land, planting seeds, moving boulders, and tearing up fence posts, William “Bill” Powell had his golf course, and he opened the doors to everyone.  

What started as a 78-acre dairy farm in East Canton, Ohio is now Clearview Golf Club. It was the first golf course in the United States designed and built solely by an African-American owner.

Bill’s daughter, Renee, is now the Head Professional there after having a trailblazing golf career of her own. In 2001, Clearview was added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

In 2009, Bill Powell died following complications from a stroke, but before he left, he told the New York Times: “It’s distasteful when you get turned down…You have a little pride. You say the hell with them. You say I’m not going to badger. I’m not going to beg them. So I said I’ll just build a golf course.”

Bud Copeland

A self-taught stick with a hack brain, Bud grew up playing golf year-round in north Florida. Born-again New England, Bud learned what an “off-season” is. He now lives in Salem, MA with his wife, daughter, two cats, and dog, Miller. He is the sole Y chromosome in the house, believes we did land on the moon and strongly advocates for walk-up music on the first and eighteenth tees.