CANTON  Member of the LPGA and PGA Hall of Famer, Renee Powell, was awarded the first Alumni of the Year by Stark Catholic Elementary School Alumni (SCESA) on March 5. Powell joined community members and alumni of Stark County Catholic Schools for a breakfast held at St. Michael Catholic Church where she was the guest speaker and honoree for the event.

While it was the first breakfast and awards event for SCESA, the alumni group also holds an annual Alumni Golf Scramble in the fall.

"The SCESA represents all 21 parishes in Stark County including those with schools, our mission is to reconnect alumni and empower them to promote and support the value of Catholic education," said event chairperson Sally Marrell. "The turnout this morning shows us that the alumni want to support our efforts and it speaks to how well-known Renee is in the Catholic education community. We planned on 100 people attending and ended up with 157. We had to move it to a bigger room at St. Michaels."

Powell attended St. Benedict Catholic Elementary School and graduated Canton Central Catholic High School in 1964. Her list of accomplishments and awards is long and impressive. Just a few of the them include winning the Kelly Springfield Open in Brisbane, Australia; becoming the second African-American woman ever to play on the LPGA Tour; and competing in more than 250 professional golf tournaments.

She is only the third American, and the only women golfer, to receive an honorary doctorate from The University of St. Andrews, Scotland, the birthplace of golf. In 2010, The University of Maryland Eastern Shore awarded Powell with an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service. 

Today, she is the head professional at her family’s Clearview Golf Course in Canton. She started the Clearview H.O.P.E. program assisting female military veterans. She has spent many years promoting and growing the game of golf internationally.

Powell and her father Bill Powell were both inducted into the PGA Hall of Fame, Bill in 2013 and Renee in 2017, making them the only father-daughter members in the PGA Hall of Fame. Powell told the alumni at the breakfast meeting the story of what lead her father to starting the golf course in 1946.

She said her father and a friend were walking along some railroad tracks when they noticed a golf course. The game intrigued her father and he decided he had to learn how to play.

"My dad grew up in Minerva and when he was nine years old, he discovered golf," she said. "The game fascinated him because he said it looked like a bunch of men were using sticks to hit a small ball in order to lose the ball only to find it again and hit it again. They were walking and hitting the ball instead of running. My dad and his brother started the first high school golf team at Minerva High School and he became the number one player."

She said after he got out of high school, Bill Powell found he wasn’t welcome at some of the area courses because of his race. He went into the service and went to Scotland and England and played golf on his off time. When he came home after three years, he still wasn’t welcomed on the local courses, so he developed and opened his own course in East Canton. It was the first golf course owned and operated by an African-American.

"I’ve spent every year accept for the first three years of my life playing golf. For those of you in this room who went to school with me, you know how much years I’ve been playing," Powell said.

Powell also spoke about how important her Catholic education has been to her. She attributed her success in part to the years she spent attending Catholic schools.

"It’s great to be here and to share some of the things that really impacted my life and formed the person I am which goes back to my Catholic education. I went to public school for my first three years of elementary school and started at St. Benedict’s Elementary School in the fourth grade," Powell said.

She and her brother were both picked on while they were in public school. One day, she was chased by a young boy with a knife on the playground. She told the teacher who replied that nobody was chasing her with a knife. The teacher then marched her out into the hallway and locked the door behind her. It was then that her parents found a way to take her out of public school and got her enrolled in Catholic school.  

For a complete profile of Renee Powell, visit https://www.clearviewgolfclub.com/reneepowell/.

The SCESA’s next event is the second annual Reverse Raffle and Kentucky Derby Watch Party on May 5 at St. Michael Catholic Church , Fannon Center. Visit www.starkholycrossacademy.com/200 for tickets and details.