Jim Dent honored at First Tee Augusta ahead of first round of of tournament at Augusta National

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Living legend Jim Dent was honored for his contribution to the sport of golf, his sportsmanship and excellence at the game, and his efforts to change the face of the sport.

Jim Dent changed golf for African-Americans – not only in Augusta by desegregating the Augusta Municipal Golf Course, but for the entire golfing world.

A former PGA Tour and Champions Tour member, Jim Dent turned professional in 1966 and joined the PGA Tour in 1970.

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Born May 9, 1939, in Augusta, Georgia, Dent graduated from Laney High School.

In addition to playing professional golf, he gained renown as a caddy for eight years at the Augusta National Golf Club and the Augusta Country Club. At 15, he caddied his first of three Masters tournaments.

When Dent finally went on to compete professionally, he won 12 PGA Tour Championships – sometimes beating players he’d caddied for.

Wednesday night, Dent’s contribution to the sport were celebrated by naming him Honorable Life Member of the Masters City Golf Association “for the dedication of loyalty and devotion while being an unforgettable legend,” which was written on the plaque presented to him during the ceremony the night before 2024 Masters play began.

Masters City Golf Association President Lenzell Ponder also presented First Tee Augusta with a financial contribution.

First Tee Augusta was established in April 2001 and is a local non-profit organization operated by FORE! Augusta Foundation. Students ages 7 through 18 are eligible to enroll in First Tee Augusta’s programs. Students receive quality life skills and golf instruction, free use of golf equipment, supervised practice privileges, and tournament opportunities.

Special emphasis at First Tee Augusta is placed on engaging low to moderate-income youth, minorities, girls, youth from underserved populations, students with disabilities, and young people that might not otherwise get exposure of the game of golf and the positive values it can instill.

Jill Brown, Executive Director of First Tee Augusta, spoke of Dent’s legacy, saying, “Golf has not always been accessible to people of color, and so maybe they were caddies or they provided some other level of service – but just to play the game, it has not always been accessible to us. So, now, to see someone who’s worked really hard to help overcome those barriers, really did a great job in his career as playing, [as a] very skilled golfer, it’s wonderful for young people to see that.”

To underscore this point, Wednesday night’s ceremony had several young people in attendance and, without prompting, Dent turned his attention to the younger attendees and took time to ask about their golf game and whether they played.

“What’s the best you ever shot?” he asked one young attendee, before trying to guess.

Part of the mission at First Tee Augusta is that no student or group will ever be turned away from playing golf based on their inability to play or lack of experience.

“Here at the First Tee of Augusta, the cool thing is we really almost eliminate that barrier to entry. We have our own six-hole golf course, so kids always have access to the game,” Executive Director Brown said.

It is something Jim Dent relates to, saying Wednesday night’s honor and all those he’s received over the years have all been unexpected.

“A great reward, you know, where you come from never knowing nothing about golf and … the only one starting golf in my family,” Dent said. “So, that’s a great honor. Never, ever, ever thought about no golf, [then] why, all of a sudden, you learn to play golf  – and it really was one of my greatest thrills to be able to play golf.”

Dent was inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame in 1994. In his 80s, he was named to the national Caddie Hall of Fame.

When he was honored Wednesday night at the First Tee Augusta located at 3165 Damascus Road in Augusta, it was just down the road from the Augusta Municipal Golf Course, whose entrance was renamed “Jim Dent Way” in his honor in 2020.

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