On this day in 1952 the PGA of America made the first concessions to its' "Caucasion only" rule and permitted the first black golfer to participate in a PGA sanctioned event. The situation that precipitated this occurred at the San Diego Open.
Sponsors of the new San Diego Open invited Bill Spiller and other blacks including Ted Rhodes to attempt to qualify for their tournament unaware of the "Caucasion only" rule. Spiller and Rhodes qualified and were set to play the event along with special invitee Joe Louis when the rule was brought up and the golfers were told that they would not be allowed to play. Louis and Spiller who had previously been denied entry into the Richmond Open had had enough and they contacted columnist Walter Winchell who broke the story on his radio program.
The following day a meeting was held with Horton Smith ted(then head of the PGA) and the players made their case to play. At first Spiller was not even in the room but was persuaded by Jimmy Demaret to not allow the meeting to proceed without his input and with that Spiller entered the room and the discussion.
In Spiller's words..."I said.' I know and you know that we're going to play in the tournaments. We all know it's coming. So if you like golf like you say you do, and I do, I think we should make an agreement so we can play without all this adverse publicity. And take this Caucasions-only clause out so we can have opportunities to get jobs as pros at clubs.'"
Spiller then let it be known that he would pursue legal action in the matter. Leland Gibson and Jackie Burke then spoke aside with Spiller and told him that they would like a chance to get this worked out. Spiller promised Burke and Garner that he would not bring legal action until they were given a chance to see what they could do.
In the end Spiller and Rhodes did not play in the event but Joe Louis (an exception made based on him being an amateur) did, becoming the first black to participate in a PGA sanctioned event. The following week the PGA added an ammendment to its constitution to allow "Approved Entries" thereby creating a work around to the rule. The rule was not officially dropped from the PGA's constitution until 1961. True to his word to Burke and Garner, Spiller did not sue over the incident and he and Rhodes played in Phoenix the following week and in 5 tournaments on each of the coasts that year. Although these events were played amidst much hostility the ice had been broken on this day in 1952.