ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As thousands watch to see who will be crowned the next PGA Champion, one local Rochester family shares memories of a significant moment at Oak Hill Country Club that took place 30 years ago.
“My dad is the first and he’s certainly not the last,” Jamila Evans-Rogers beams with pride talking about her dad’s accomplishments.
In 1992, Dr. James Evans, Jr. became the first African American invited to join Rochester’s exclusive Oak Hill Country Club.
“This came on the heels of him becoming the first African American President with Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School,” explains Evans-Rogers, who was 14 at the time. “I was extremely proud because at that age I was old enough to grasp the gravity and the weight of it.”
Today, the mom of three says if there was push back or negativity about being the first black family at the Oak Hill, she didn’t experience it.
“Oak Hill was one of the most fun places to hang out as a kid,” said Evans-Rogers who recalls running up a pricey tab eating snacks and ice cream pool side one summer.
She and Dr. Evan’s second wife, Dr. Linda Hickmon Evans say this week James Evans would have been front and center during the PGA Championship. Sadly, in August 2022 he passed away, just nine months before this week’s major event at Oak Hill.
“This is the first time that I’ve been here since he passed and so it’s very bittersweet,” said Hickmon Evans as she watched round two of play throughout the day on Friday. She says walking the grounds of Oak Hill brings back precious memories of her “golf-a-holic” husband who delivered the spiritual message titled “On Eagles Wings” during the 1995 Ryder Cup.
“As a golfing term, an eagle is what everybody is looking for, so he was able to link golfing with his other love which was the church,” she said.
Dr. Evans’ family says his services as the first Black member at Oak Hill Country Club is an example of his commitment to leading the way for others.
“Clearly there is both pride and responsibility with being the first. It’s groundbreaking but its just not about you, it’s about what comes next and who comes next,” she adds.
Because it’s a private club, Oak Hill officials would not comment on Evans or his time as a member there, but both his widow and his daughter say they’ve gotten messages from members and friend sharing how proud Dr. Evans would have been with the way Oak Hill hosted this year’s PGA Championship.