Renee Powell was a trailblazer not only as a part of the Ohio State women’s golf program, but as a Black woman breaking barriers in the game of golf.
Powell grew up with golf; her father, Bill Powell, was the first African American to design, build and own his own golf course in the United States. Coached by her dad, Powell was a standout on the amateur golf circuit before making her way to college.
Powell began her career at Ohio University before transferring to Ohio State in the mid-1960’s. Powell was a captain of the Buckeyes’ team, becoming the first Black student-athlete to lead a major university golf team.
Powell turned pro in 1967 and was the second Black woman to play on the LPGA Tour. In 1977, she also became the first woman to compete in a British men’s professional golf tournament when she played in the Surrey PGA Championship.
Although Powell excelled on the course, her journey was not free of challenges, playing college golf, and later pro golf, at a time when segregation was still prevalent throughout the country. In one instance, Ohio State supported her decision to play in the Ohio State Golf Association tournament and was prepared to leave the association if she was not allowed to play. In her early pro career, before the LPGA announced it was an integrated tour, Powell was at times not allowed to stay in official tournament hotels.
After competing in over 250 professional events, Powell retired in 1980 and went on to be a television commentator. In 1995, she became the head pro of her family’s golf course, Clearview Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio, which her father designed to be a club free of racial and social discrimination.
Powell has received many awards throughout her career and, in 2017, Powell was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame. Her father was an earlier inductee, and they are the first father/daughter pair to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Powell, who is still the head pro at Clearview, has dedicated much of her life to diversifying the game of golf. She was an International Goodwill Ambassador and traveled to Africa more than 25 times to host golf clinics. Powell also runs Clearview H.O.P.E. (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), which has therapeutic and recreational golf programs for female veterans.