Lucious Bateman was born in Franklinton, Louisiana on January 1, 1906, and grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi. As a strapping 5' 11" young man, he started work at the nearby, Edgewater Hotel and Golf Club in 1919, where, as a caddy, he could be found teeing up golf balls for the head golf professional, Art Saunders. “I’d watch and listen ’cause I was so close,” said Lucious. Eventually, Lucious rose to the rank of head caddy and had the opportunity to learn & teach the game from Art Saunders and Johnny Revolta, a PGA Touring Professional. Playing privileges were extended and at one time, Lucious owned the course record at three under par.
He was drafted into the Air Force during World War II and after his service to his country, he relocated to Oakland, California. “I had a sister in Oakland, California, so I just picked up and moved.” She had a small two-bedroom house on Seventy-seventh Avenue where they lived until his death in April of 1972.
A GREAT PLAYER
Working nights at the shipyards for Bethlehem Steel left mornings or afternoon hours free for golf. Alameda Muni (renamed Corica Park) was across the tracks past the Southern Pacific depot, down on the mudflats of the western shore of the San Francisco Bay. It was during the mid-1940s that Bateman honed his game, regularly posting rounds in the ’60s.
One story of Bateman’s playing ability came when the reigning heavyweight champion, Joe Louis—who at the time was the national spokesman for the US Army—was barnstorming across the country raising money for war bonds, and the champ’s schedule brought him to San Francisco to stage a boxing exhibition with Sugar Lip Anderson and Big Boy Brown.
Golf was the champ’s favorite pastime, and he scheduled an exhibition match at Harding Park Golf Course. Bateman, being one of the better African American players in the area, was in the featured foursome with the Champ (a scratch golfer,) and top African American players Ted Rhodes and Bill Spiller. Bateman won the match.
The first black football player, Marion Motley, took the field in 1946, Jackie Robinson first played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, Carl Lloyd became the first African American to play in a NBA game in 1950, the infamous 1953 Section 1 - Article III of its constitution - the clause limited membership into the Professional Golfer's Association to the Caucasian race, this was abolished in1961. It was then, Charlie Sifford was allowed to join the PGA Tour. By then, Lucious was past his playing prime.
Once, when asked if he was ever bitter about not being able to play the PGA Tour, Bateman replied, “My mother taught me that everything happens for the best. What may seem like a tough break often works out the other way. I have no complaints.”
By 1949, Bateman was offered a job at Airway Fairways Driving Range, “mostly as a handyman,” to pro Bob Fry. Located across from the Oakland Airport, Bateman would clean range balls, repair equipment, and, during his free time, teach kids. “If kids who don’t have any money ask for my help, I give them all I can,” he told an interviewer once. “I just ask them for one thing in return: to try. I do the rest. I get to know them, and they get to know me.” Tony Lema said in a 1965 Golf Digest article about Bateman, “Many kids might have made jails instead of pars and birdies if it hadn’t been for Loosh.” “Bateman had a touch.” John McMullin, 1956 PGA Rookie of the Year said, “He could see something when it broke down and he could fix it easily."
And he was a motivator. “He was one of a kind. Dick and I would go up after high school”, said John Lotz, who won the 1971 Concord Open. “And we’d pick up balls at the range. Then Lucious would work on our games.” Gary Plato, who Roger Maltbie describes as “a true professional and quintessential ambassador for the game of golf” said, “In return for golf lessons Bateman asked his students for a commitment to fulfill their potential at everything they did; to behave with dignity on and off the golf course; and to treat others and themselves with respect. Lucious was a man who did so much—for so many—for so little.” “He helped so many underprivileged youngsters not only to get started in golf, but he also kept them out of trouble, and he didn’t charge them anything,” said Tal Smith, former PGA Professional at Claremont Country Club in Oakland. “Kids who were on the borderline of society from being good boys or bad boys, he helped through their adolescence,” said Dick Lotz. “There were kids he gave jobs to that had been in juvenile hall. He guided them to be good citizens. I think that is probably the more important thing about him than the golf aspect. I look at what the First Tee (youth golf program) represents and its nine core values, and I think, ‘Man, Lucious invented ’em.’”
A GIFTED TEACHER
Lucious Bateman taught the compact swing which was way ahead of its time. He kept golf simple which caused his students to improve quickly. To that point, Bateman started instructing John McMullin around 1950-1951. By 1953 John won the Northern California Junior Championship. By 1955, John won the prestigious Western Intercollegiate Championship held at Pasatiempo Golf Club every year. By 1956 he was the PGA Rookie of the year. By 1958 John won a PGA Tour event – the Hesperia Classic. During the 50s & 60s virtually every major championship in California was won by a Bateman student from the California State Amateur on down.
From the 1940s to the 1970s, Lucious Bateman taught hundreds of kids how to play golf and never charged them a penny. Many of his students went on to the PGA Tour, others became PGA Club Professionals, College All Americans, and most became honorable productive members of our society. Some of his notable students who went on the PGA Tour were:
"Champagne" Tony Lema – 1964 British Open Champion - multiple PGA Tour Champion
John McMullin multiple PGA Tour Champion
Don Whitt multiple PGA Tour Champion
Dick Lotz multiple PGA Tour Champion
John Lotz PGA Tour Champion
Ross Randall - 8 years on the PGA Tour Tournament
In1964, word was getting out about this man who was having such a huge impact on Golf, so in January 1965 Golf Digest wrote an article entitled “California Builder of Champions” by Walt Roessing. From that day on people were coming from all over the United States to take lessons from this amazing teacher. Since then, many other major golf writers have written about Lucious Bateman.
50 years after his passing, he is still having a huge impact on the game of golf. 50 years after Lucious Bateman passed away in 1972, his legacy is getting larger every year. He has been given many awards posthumously and more awards are sure to come in the future. Here are the awards that have been awarded to Lucious Bateman:
* 2008 – California Golf Writers Highest Honor – Golden State Award
* 2008 – Honorary Membership in the Northern California PGA
* 2010 – Inducted into the African American Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame
* 2018 – Inducted into the Northern California PGA Hall of Fame
* 2022 – Inducted into the National African American Golf Hall of Fame
* 2022 - Inducted into the Northern California Golf Association Hall of Fame