American student Earl Moorer created his own little bit of history when he graduated from St Andrews University during the traditional summer series of ceremonies.
For the Texan was the first to benefit from the New Links Scholarship, a programme inspired by Charlie Sifford, the black golfer who successfully challenged the PGA Tour’s odious Caucasian-only clause in the 1960s at a time when the only blacks on tour were caddies.
He had an extremely tough time as the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour and, when he received an honorary degree at St Andrews several years ago, his proposer, astrophysicist Dr Kenny Wood, made it clear at the time it was not a token gesture.
Indeed, inspired by Mr Sifford’s story, the New Links St Andrews charity established a scholarship to enable academically gifted minority golfers from the USA and other parts of the world to study at Scotland’s oldest university.
The registered Scottish charity - it has been endorsed by golfing legend Arnold Palmer - is dedicated to improving the life experiences of less privileged children from around the world through international travel, education, and the game of golf.
Earl graduated with an honours degree in financial economics and Dr Wood said yesterday (Thursday): ”This is a tremendous achievement for Earl and we are all delighted that New Links was able to deliver on its goal of providing a St Andrews education for a young man who otherwise would never have come here. Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the last five years.”
Speaking exclusively to the Citizen after receiving his degree, Earl said: ”I would like to thank everyone for their support during my time in St Andrews. It has been an amazing experience.”
Paying tribute to the charity’s board and its supporters, he added: ”They have provided me with an opportunity to receive a degree from a prestigious university and see parts of the world that I would have never been able to see.
‘‘I have met people from all around the world and it has changed my perspective of people and their cultures. I have also been able to play some of the best golf courses in the world during my four years at St Andrews.
“In all aspects it has truly been a world class experience. As I leave I feel prepared to enter the world taking with me my experiences and new found perspective on life.”
New Links aims to sponsor youth visits to Scotland, placing an emphasis on higher education and giving young people the chance to experience all that is best in the game of golf and learn the sporting and social skills that go with it.
The programme was unveiled in 2006 with the visit to St Andrews of 10 young golfers from Los Angeles and the following year the first New Links Scholarship to the university was founded and Earl arrived to start his degree course.
The ideas behind New Links grew from experiences that Kenny and Christine Wood shared as part of mentoring programmes in which they participated while living in the USA.
Unfortunately, owing to the current worldwide financial situation the charity has not been able to provide for further university scholarships or the annual youth visits to St Andrews.