THE PRO SHOP x SIFF
March 18th | Seattle, Washington
The Pro Shop is a nonprofit organization with the mission to empower women in architecture, engineering and construction into greater positions of influence, through the game of golf. This special screening of Playing Through benefits both The Pro Shop and the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a national nonprofit engaged in furthering higher education for minority youth through scholarships.
Learn more at www.theproshophq.org.
GARY INTERNATIONAL BLACK FILM FESTIVAL
October 7th - 9th | Gary, Indiana
The Gary International Black Film Festival uses film as a catalyst for positive cultural activity to enhance the ‘cultural capital’ of our hometown of Gary, IN by celebrating black culture through independent film and discussion. It is our goal to bring films of the highest quality that are not seen at the local multiplex that reflect the depth and transcendence of black people.
Learn more at www.garyblackfilmfest.org.
VIENNA INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL
September 10th - 14th | Vienna, Austria
The mission of the Vienna Independent Film Festival is to both discover and inspire independent filmmakers from around the world and to introduce their work to broad audiences. This international festival, hosted in Vienna, Austria, invites global filmmakers to showcase their work with in-person screenings and red carpet events hosted by prestigious industry guests. Playing Through screens at this year's festival on September 13th.
Learn more at www.vienna-film-festival.com.
OAK PARK BLACK FILM FESTIVAL
September 7th - 11th | Sacramento, California
The inaugural Oak Park Black Film Festival in Sacramento, California, hosted at the historic Guild Theater, will run September 7th through September 11th, showcasing African American filmmakers and narratives. The week will feature panel discussions and additional special events. The Oak Park Black Film Festival hopes to bring greater opportunity to black filmmakers, connecting black cinematic talent with peers and industry professionals.
MARTHA'S VINEYARD AFRICAN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL
August 9th - 13th | Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center
The Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival, produced by Run&Shoot, is a nine-day event that showcases the works of independent and established African-American filmmakers and Black excellence in film. The Festival is recognized as a distinguished showcase and is an OSCAR® Qualifying Festival in the Short Film Category. This year mark's the 20th anniversary of the Festival.
Learn more at www.mvaaff.com.
PLAYING THROUGH at the 20th ANNUAL MVAAFF
August 8th at 1:00 p.m. | Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center
Playing Through screens at the 20th annual Martha's Vineyard African American Film Festival on Monday, August 8th at 1:00 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit https://www.mvaaff.com/tickets/ and scroll to the correct date or item number #BLK17 and proceed to checkout by clicking the red button. Tickets for this screening are $20 each and are available for purchase through August 8th.
Click here to purchase tickets at www.mvaaff.com/tickets/.
DURBAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
July 21st-30th | Durban, South Africa and Virtual
The Durban International Film Festival fulfils a facilitative function as a promoter of the film industry, creating networking and cultural exchange platforms. It was initiated as a safe space for intellectual and creative dialogue to start conversations that spark innovation and question the world we live in and the lenses through which history is portrayed during a time of conflict and extreme racial tensions. The festival is an Academy Award Qualifying event and is vital on the international film circuit. DIFF is presented annually by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of Kwazulu-Natal. This year marks the festival's 43rd year.
Learn more at www.durbanfilmfest.com.
SARASOTA FILM FESTIVAL
April 2nd | 6:30 p.m. | Cinebistro Siesta Key - SOLD OUT
April 4th | 4:15 p.m. | Sarasota Municipal Auditorium
The Sarasota Film Festival, founded in 1998, is an international film festival hosted in Sarasota, Florida, and viewable from around the world. The festival's mission is to celebrate the art of filmmaking and the contribution of filmmakers by hosting an international film festival and developing year-long programs for the economic, educational, and cultural benefit of the Sarasota community.
Tickets at www.sarasotafilmfestival.com
Written by Madeline MacClurg | August 8, 2022
Jordan’s plans for the film go beyond festivals. He also hopes to share "Playing Through" with people for whom Gregory's story resonates., and that will start with the inaugural Black Golfers’ Weekend scheduled for October.
The Sunday Times
Written by Tymon Smith | July 24, 2022
The Durban International Film Festival is back to live screenings with a cornucopia of must-see, diverse films and documentaries.
Read the full article here.
Written by Randy O. Williams | March 2, 2022
Orphaned at just age four after her parents were killed in a car crash, Ann Moore was taken in by the Sanders, a white family that were her mother and fathers’ former employers. They would provide her room and board over the ensuing years in exchange for her working as a maid’s helper and later a maid.
Fast forward to 1938, married to Percy Gregory, they lived in Gary, Indiana where he worked for US Steel. The young wife was quite active in the community assisting in catering functions at local colleges and volunteering on church committees and civic charity drives. Outgoing and popular, Mrs. Ann Gregory also received an appointment as the first African American on Gary’s formerly all-white public library board. At the same time, she used her athleticism to excel in tennis, even winning the Gary City Championship with a relentless serve-and-volley game. While she played tennis, her husband joined The Par-Breakers, a club for Black male golfers in Gary.
In 1943, with her husband serving in the Navy during WWII, Ann Gregory took up golf herself. Taking lessons from Calvin Ingram, a terrific player and a veteran of the United Golfers Association, the black golf circuit, she discovered a natural touch from tee to green. In just three years, Gregory crafted a high level game – an impressive accomplishment for someone who had not played golf until her early 30s. She started playing Gary’s city-owned hardscrabble nine-hole course and when Mr. Gregory returned from the war and started playing with his wife. Mrs. Gregory defeated him along with all his Par-Breaker buddies as well, even when they made her play from the men’s tees.
She joined the nearby Chicago Women’s Golf Association, an all-Black organization that played at several regional public courses.
One day in 1947, husband and wife went out to play golf. Ann didn’t want to play the little course, the nine-holer to which Black golfers were relegated. But no Black golfer had ever played the big course.
“I’m a resident of Gary,” she firmly told the man in the pro shop, “I pay my taxes. My money’s as good and as green as anybody else’s. I want to play the big course.” Nobody stopped her.
So steadily did she develop her game that by 1947, having won the Chicago Women’s Golf Association Championship, the Joe Louis Invitational and the United Golf Association Championship, the black press dubbed her the “Queen of Negro Women’s Golf.”
In 1948 Ann Gregory won her first of five Chicago Women’s Golf Club tournaments, as well as a tournament in Kankakee, Illinois, where both she and her husband competed and won in their categories.
In 1950 she won six of the seven tournaments she entered that year. In 1956 the Chicago Women’s Golf Club became the first African American organization to join the United States Golf Association, and Gregory soon became the first African American to play in the SGA women’s national championship.
Ann Gregory was entering a world where the players were golf debutantes, young white women who competed for silver cups on a tour of private clubs and exclusive resorts.
So on September 17, 1956, Mrs. Gregory teed off in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis thus becoming the first Black woman to play in a national championship conducted by the USGA.
Carolyn Cudone has never forgotten her first-round match with Gregory in that 1956 tournament. In a 1988 story for Golf Journal she remembered: “There was a mob at the first tee. A lot of them were reporters. I was shocked by the crowd’s size because in those days, first-round matches didn’t often draw so many people.”
But over 40 years later she also recalled the words of a club parking attendant telling her father before the match: “Your daughter better win today or you’d better not come back to this parking lot.”
Being the only Black player in this tournament, at the same time, Gregory disappointed some folks in the black golfing community because she eschewed participating in a UGA competition being held on the same weekend.
Quite a likable person with a fine sense of humor and compassion, Gregory had an iron will too. And she exchanged leads with Cudone throughout the round, Gregory kept pace until she began to spray her tee shots over the final few holes, losing the match, 2 and 1.
“When we shook hands,” Cudone recalled, “do you know what Ann told me? She said: ‘My husband said I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. I guess I fooled him.’
They’d meet again 15 years later. In 1971 Cudone edged Gregory by one stroke at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, GA., to claim the fourth of her five consecutive U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur titles.
But Gregory would enjoy many victories, winning nearly 300 tournaments including: the Pepsi Cola International Championship in Puerto Rico (1963, 1964), Nassau (1965), Jamaica (1966), Spain (1967), and Hawaii (1968).
And her competitive drive amazingly extended into her seventies.
In 1989, at age 76 and competing against a field of 50 women, she won the gold medal in the U.S. National Senior Olympics, beating her competitors by 44 strokes.
She died the next year on February 5, 1990 at the age of 77.
Written by Michael Bamberger | March 31, 2022
One hundred years ago, there was a poor nine-year-old Black girl in rural Mississippi, an orphan, fixing to turn 10 come summer. Could she possibly have imagined that she would someday have a biographer (in a manner of speaking) from a prominent white Southern family who now lives in a gleaming high-rise with a view of the Gulf of Mexico?
That girl, Ann Moore, grew up, married and moved to Gary, Ind. As Ann Gregory, she became the “Queen of Negro Golf” in various newspaper stories in the 1950s. You could also say she was — and is for eternity — the Jackie Robinson of women’s amateur golf in the United States.
Curtis Jordan, the biographer in the high-rise, has made a labor-of-love movie about Gregory. He never met her, but his mother did, once and memorably. Jordan’s film, Playing Through, is based on real events and it centers around an unlikely match between Gregory and a character shaped by Jordan’s own mother, Josephine Knowlton Jordan. Josephine went by Dadie. Her movieland equivalent goes by Babs.
In real life, Mrs. Gregory and Mrs. Jordan, as they were known in various sports-section write-ups, met in the second round of the 1959 U.S. Amateur at Congressional Country Club, near our nation’s capital. Mrs. Jordan was 2 up at one point in their match and even on the 18th tee. But Mrs. Gregory won the match, 1 up. That made all the difference.
Curtis Jordan’s mother was famously outgoing and chatty, as a student at the all-girls Madeira School in McLean, Va., as a summer colonist in Bristol, R.I., and as a sportswoman, wife and mother in Columbus, Ga. But her only son could never get his mother to tell the story of what happened that day. Not that he pried, or even tried that hard. That was not, he said, the Southern way. At least, not in his family, in Columbus, Ga.
Playing Through, produced by Jordan (and others) from a script he wrote, will have its premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival on April 2. It will also be available for downloading through the festival’s website. In May, it will be shown at the Harlem International Film Festival.
The origin story behind the movie’s fictionalized script is unlikely. When Gregory took up golf in the 1940s in Gary, the only place she was allowed to play was a scruffy nine-hole public course. The city-owned 18-hole municipal course was for white golfers only.
That the movie got made at all is nearly as unlikely.
Curtis Jordan, who is 70, spent decades as the head rowing coach at Princeton, coached on many Olympic rowing teams — and had never written or made a movie before. (His uncle, Gunby Jordan of Columbus, began the Southern Open which, for more than 30 years and under different names, was a PGA Tour event.) Jordan had no contacts in the film business, an industry that is a strange brew of agents, managers, actors, casting directors, location scouts, best boys and the rest.
One day, after struggling to find a person who could even help him find a person who could play Gregory, Jordan began entering various words and phrases in a Google search box. Acting experience was not among them. He stumbled upon the name Andia Winslow and sent her a direct message via social media. Winslow had never acted before, but she had a presence. Also, in an earlier life she played on the Yale golf team. In fact, she was the first Black woman to play Ivy League golf.
By pure coincidence, Winslow and her family knew Gregory’s daughter, JoAnne Gregory Overstreet, a retired school teacher who lives in Las Vegas. The two families met and became friends in Alaska. Overstreet’s husband, Louis, was then a civil engineer working on the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The Overstreets and the Winslows were part of small social group of Black families from the Lower 48 who found themselves living and working in Alaska.
I stumbled into all of this.
In 2020, after the death of George Floyd, I began writing a series of pieces about Black golfers, women golfers and people who found their way to golf from unlikely backgrounds. David DeNunzio, GOLF’s editor-in-chief, suggested I write about Gregory. I knew nothing about her and quickly learned that in 1956 Gregory became the first Black woman golfer to play in a U.S. Women’s Open and, two months later, at age 44, a U.S. Women’s Amateur. After that piece was published, I heard from Curtis Jordan, who told me about the movie he hoped to make. That was maybe 15 months ago, not even. And now he has a movie.
Sam Burns won the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook, near Tampa, on Sunday, March 19. The next day, I was in Jordan’s home in nearby Sarasota, with its spectacular Gulf views through a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. After some chitchat, Jordan’s wife, Paige, hit a button. Through the magic of automation, the curtains closed.
Our focus was away from the sea and toward a large, elevated flat-screen TV, on which Jordan played long clips from Playing Through. I saw enough of the movie to say that the circa 1959 sets and costumes and artifacts — the caddie bibs, the golf clubs, the cars — were spot-on. The magic of moviemaking. I’m rooting for this film, but I don’t know much about the story it tells. I do know it is not one big lovefest.
“I knew nothing about this story until 1991,” Jordan said. A friend had called to tell him his mother was mentioned in a story in a new issue of Sports Illustrated. The piece was actually an excerpt from a book by Rhonda Glenn, an historian of women’s golf.
Glenn describes how Gregory was not allowed to attend a dinner for contestants in the Congressional clubhouse, at that ’59 Amateur. Glenn describes how her caddie was fired, by the club, for his exuberant response to Gregory making a birdie, to Jordan’s bogey, to win their second-round match. Glenn writes about how the club president invited Gregory, after her third-round loss, to return to Congressional anytime, and quotes Gregory: “I thought, He’s got to be crazy! I would never come back there to play after all of the things they put me through.”
There actually is no mention of how Dadie Jordan handled Gregory’s win, and her own defeat, in the 1991 piece. By then, Jordan was leading a life unlike the one she knew in 1959. She had divorced her husband, moved from Columbus to a ranch in Arizona and become a horsewoman and harness-racing driver. Still, Jordan Curtis could not engage his mother on the subject of the second round of the 1959 U.S. Women’s Amateur at Congressional.
Curtis has an idea about why: He suspects his mother, a woman of her time and place as we all are, was less-than-gracious to Mrs. Gregory, the older, working-class, public-course Black woman to whom she had lost. Despite his inability to learn more from his mother, that day in 1959, and that second-round match at Congressional, got lodged in Jordan’s mind.
“I had written a screenplay, not knowing what I was doing — I had to find books about how to write screenplays — and my plan was to turn my script over to experienced screenwriters,” Jordan told me. “And when I did, they were like, ‘And later in life the two women reunited and became the best of friends.’ And I’m thinking, ‘No, that’s not it at all.’”
Jordan’s aim was to capture his mother’s time and a place, and Gregory’s time and place, in all its social and racial complexity. “My mother was not an overt racist,” Curtis Jordan said. You didn’t see her racism in how she spoke to Black workers in her home, he said. But listening to Jordan, I got the sense that his mother did not even believe in separate but equal. More like separate and unequal.
In the movie, a club member with a gravelly voice looks through a clubhouse window at the course and summarizes the impending match this way: “Colored versus white. North versus South. Wealthy versus working class.” In real life, Dadie Jordan failed to represent her race and class in that match. In victory — and by all accounts in defeat, too — Gregory represented a more idealized future. Painfully, all these years later, Curtis Jordan will tell you, we are still working toward that future.
Curtis Jordan is not a writer, but he wrote a screenplay. He’s not a filmmaker, but he made a film. He’s not a golfer, but he made himself knowledgeable about the game. He’s not a sociologist, but he knows what it was like, as a wealthy white country-club kid in Columbus, Ga., to be raised more by his Black nanny than his white mother. It informs his life and his movie.
He wrote this line for a character named Ann Gregory but Ann Gregory surely thought it to herself: “Sometimes in life all a person needs is a chance to prove themselves.”
Nobody gave Gregory that chance. She gave it to herself, as a birthright she could recognize, even when others could not.
Written by Tiffany Razzano | April 6, 2022
"Playing Through" tells the story of Ann Gregory, the first Black woman to play in a USGA event. The movie is part of Sarasota Film Fest.
A film sharing the story of Black golfer Ann Gregory, who made history late in her career as the first woman of color to play in a U.S. Golf Association event, can be streamed virtually as part of the Sarasota Film Festival through Sunday.
The movie "Playing Through" has numerous local ties. Gregory's primary competition in the film, the fictional Babs Whiting, is inspired by the mother of Sarasota's Curtis Jordan, who wrote the screenplay.
Many cast and crew members working on the film are also affiliated with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and Ringling College of Art + Design.
Learning About Ann Gregory
Jordan first learned about Gregory in 1991, when he read a Sports Illustrated article about the amateur golfer, who had died a year earlier.
Throughout her life, she won more than 300 golf tournaments, according to the IndyStar. This includes four United Golfers Association national women's championships and competitions in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Spain.
The Sports Illustrated story mentioned Gregory's historic USGA event, a real-life match that she played against the screenwriter's mother, Josephine Knowlton Jordan, in 1959. His mother played golf "very successfully" in the 1950s before moving into harness horse racing for the remainder of her career, Curtis Jordan told Patch. Before this article, though, he never knew about Gregory's groundbreaking match against his mother.
"My mom wasn't particularly forthcoming," he said. "I don't think it was a very pleasant match and I think race had something to do with it. So, she didn't talk much about it. I know how much my mom's life changed pretty much after that match."
Writing the Script
Jordan couldn't get Gregory's story out of his head, often thinking about it after he read the article until he retired in 2016. Though he wasn't a writer, he wanted to tell her story and began writing the script that would become "Playing Through."
"I was playing with her story, writing it, but I had no idea what I was doing. I had never been a writer. A long email was the longest I've ever written," he said. "I probably had 200 different versions of the script."
He didn't think much about what he might do with the story until he befriended Peter Odiorne, who was interested in producing the film through his company, Unbounded Media. As plans for the film moved forward, they brought in actress and professional golfer Andia Winslow to portray Gregory, as well as director Balbinka Korzeniowska.
Filming "Playing Through"
With a small budget and other partners brought on through Odiorne, they decided to film locally in Sarasota. It made sense to film in a city with such a thriving arts scene, said Jordan. "I love Sarasota. I love the performing arts here. Coming out of COVID and with all the industries in the world that suffered during COVID, the performing arts were hit hard. I thought it was a great way to give a little back."
In addition to working with Ringling College and Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, the Sarasota Opera House provided housing for performers and crew.
And much of the movie was filmed at Laurel Oaks Country Club in Sarasota, though the actual match that inspired the screenplay was played at the Congressional Country Club in the Washington, D.C., area.
Telling Ann Gregory's Story
Though the story is fictional, it relies heavily on real-life events. And when creating Whiting, the movie's antagonist portrayed by Julia Rae, Jordan used his mother "as a skeleton to hang all these bad attributes and also the positive parts of her life onto this character."
He added, "Like all things, there was a level of exaggeration to the character. I saw a lot of what went on with my mom and it's blown up with the Babs character. My mom was a very independent person. She didn't really give a rat's (expletive) about what people thought about her."
Race issues drive the story, said Jordan, though he always considered that to be "the low-hanging fruit" when discussing Gregory's historic athletic feats.
"But we couldn't get away from it," he said. "To me, it was more about individuals wanting to be self-expressed, wanting to be who they wanted to be, regardless of the environment around them and people telling them who to be."
Whiting's character "is less a racist and more a self-centered individual" who was driven to succeed and focused on her own career, he added. "The fact that Ann was Black didn't really bother her. It only bothered her in that it created issues for the competition. She was a competitor and wanted to win at all costs."
Ann Gregory's Accomplishments Resonate with Cast, Crew
Nate Jacobs, the founding and artistic director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe who cast many of the African American actors for the movie and also had a small role in the film, said Gregory's is a "very important story" to share.
Calling the golfer "a trailblazer," he said that she was competing "at a time when Black people were not allowed on certain golf courses and not allowed to compete in certain tournaments."
Jacobs told Patch, "We stand on her shoulders. Not only was she always a very dignified and respected woman in all aspects, but she set a precedent in the field of golf, which was pretty much a man's sport anyway, whether you were a white woman or a Black woman."
Founding an all-Black theater in a predominantly white city decades after Gregory was golfing, he can still relate to her story today.
"We're still dealing with the same stuff we've been dealing with for centuries in this country," said Jacobs.
When Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe started, there had never been an all-Black cast in any theater performance in Sarasota. Though the theater is now embraced by many in the city, it wasn't always easy, he said.
"We endured the Ann Gregory stuff, too. They were trying to keep us out of the theaters. Called us (racial slurs) in our face in our early days in this town. Just some nasty, uncalled for craziness that we had to endure to build what we have here," said Jacobs. "So, we are proud to be a part of telling her story. It's a story that needed to be told and it's a collaboration that fell smack dab in the middle of our core values."
Many members of the film's cast and crew didn't know much about Gregory before making the film. Like many of them, Michael Mendez, a Westcoast regular who portrayed the golfer's caddy, Reggie, said he's glad he had the opportunity to learn about her life.
"Those questions run through your mind. Who's the first person that did this or that? There's so many people that get lost in history because there's not enough attention given to them," he said. "I didn't know much about Ms. Ann Gregory, but I'm definitely glad that I was part of this project. Not only was this story a valuable story that should be told to everybody, but her being played by a phenomenal golfer and a Black woman herself (Winslow) was a direct inspiration."
The film has all the makings of a future classic movie, said Mendez. "It's one of those movies like growing up in the '90s that's like a classic, almost like 'Remember the Titans' or something like that, like other phenomenal sports movies we know of that are classics."
Jordan hopes the film resonates with viewers, as "it has a lot of humanity to it without the superheroes and special effects."
He said, "It's not a complicated movie, but I think it's a really good story. It's like a restaurant that's not a very fancy restaurant. There's no big splash, but the food's really good. It's kind of like that."
Playing Through is about Gregory, the first Black woman to play in a U.S. Golf Association event, and the fictional Babs Whatling, a white woman from the South.
It’s a balmy Tuesday afternoon in May, and on the greens of Sarasota’s Laurel Oak Country Club, a sea of people straight out of the 1950s—women in knee-length skirts and tucked-in, starchy shirts; men in flat caps and vests—have descended onto the golf course.
They’re watching a pivotal golf match between a Black woman and a white woman—at a time when both weren’t exactly encouraged to play golf. But actually, that’s not the whole story. The spectators are really there as actors in Playing Through, a new film being shot in Sarasota.
Playing Through sits at the intersection of humanity, sports and history. The story follows a tumultuous game between Ann Gregory, the first Black woman to play in a U.S. Golf Association event, and the fictional Babs Whatling, a talented golfer and white woman from the South. The tale flips between the game being played on the course and illuminating flashbacks.
The script is personal for writer Curtis Jordan, a former rowing coach at Princeton University who now lives much of the year in Sarasota. His own mother was the inspiration for Whatling. She started in the horse business but took up golf as an avenue to prove herself once she married Jordan’s father. A real-life golf match between Jordan’s mother and Gregory proved fateful—afterwards, she divorced Jordan’s father, became one of the first women harness horse drivers and gave up serious golf.
In 2016, after he retired, Jordan started toying with the script. Despite how close he was to one of the main characters, he drew largely from his imagination.
“My mom was a pusher of barriers and adventurous and she was over the top with her life, and she would let you know about it,” he says. “But she never talked about this. I don’t think it was a very bright light in her life.”
But it wasn’t just his mother he kept coming back to—it was Gregory, too.
“When I found out about Ann Gregory, I thought, why don’t I know more about this woman? Why isn’t she more celebrated for her courage and bravery and the things that she did?” Jordan recalls. “That was the driving factor for me to write this.”
It was through a twist of fate that Jordan met filmmaker and Playing Through’s lead producer Peter Odiorne. Jordan and Odiorne’s father both happened to find themselves at a bar in Princeton, New Jersey, one night when they realized they shared something interesting in common: a love for Sarasota.
When Jordan finished his script, his wife gave it to Odiorne’s father. He passed it along to his son, who decided it was right up his alley.
That was almost 19 months ago, but the road to filming is never easy. In the course of development, Odiorne wondered which was harder: finding actors who could be athletes or athletes who could be actors. After developing the project with high-profile actors taking golf lessons, the team decided to try another route. Their two leads, Andia Winslow as Ann Gregory and Julia Rae as Babs Whatling, now have both acting and athletic experience.
Odiorne, director Balbinka Korzeniowska and the Playing Through team decided to shoot the entire film in Sarasota in a five-week time frame ending in mid-June. In addition to Laurel Oak Country Club, locations include Historic Spanish Point, the Waffle Stop restaurant and a few houses in the Rosemary District.
And although the story isn’t personal for Odiorne, the setting is. He came to Sarasota for the first time when his mother was pregnant with him. He’s visited every year since, but this is his first project filmed here.
Even the film crew has local connections. A dozen or so Ringling College of Art and Design students are on staff, and at least one supporting actor is from Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.
Where the film will go next remains to be seen. The $1-$2 million project is being shot on spec, meaning there’s currently no distribution plan. Two sales agencies are “anxious” to see the film when it’s finished, Odiorne says, and they could take the product and sell it to a prominent distributor, like Hulu, Netflix or A24. If that doesn’t work, there are other avenues.
Whatever happens, Odiorne wants to return to Sarasota. He’s working on a project about John Ringling, one of the city’s most prominent historical figures. And he has hopes of bringing even more films to the area.
The movie, titled “Playing Through,” to illustrate the life of Ann Gregory, the first Black woman to play in a national golf championship event
A film depicting the first Black woman to tee up in a national golfing championship is in the works.
The story about Ann Gregory, known as “The Queen of Negro Women’s Golf,” will be told by following a pivotal golf match between Gregory, the first Black woman to play in a U.S. Golf Association event, and a fictional white female golfer from the South named Babs Whatling.
The film titled Playing Through hails from writer Curtis Jordan, a former rowing coach at Princeton University who now lives in Sarasota. His own mother and her real-life golf match with Gregory in the 1950s were the inspiration for Whatling’s character.
“My mom was a pusher of barriers and adventurous and she was over the top with her life, and she would let you know about it. But she never talked about this. I don’t think it was a very bright light in her life,” Jordan said as reported by Sarasota Magazine.
“When I found out about Ann Gregory, I thought, why don’t I know more about this woman? Why isn’t she more celebrated for her courage and bravery and the things that she did?” Jordan recalls. “That was the driving factor for me to write this.”
Gregory was considered the best Black American female golfer of the 20th century, as noted in the late decorated Black tennis player Arthur Ashe‘s book, “Hard Road to Glory.”
The Playing Through synopsis on IMDB reads, “Late in her career, Ann Gregory finds the courage to be the first woman of color to enter the USGA Women’s Amateur. She collides with Babs Whatling, a privileged white woman from the south who is searching for her own identity.”
Jordan has teamed with producer Peter Odiorne to develop the project. Actress Andia Winslow has been tapped to play Ann Gregory with Julia Rae as Babs Whatling.
Director Balbinka Korzeniowska is currently filming the $1 million – $2 million project in Sarasota at the Laurel Oak Country Club. According to the report, locations also include the Historic Spanish Point, the Waffle Stop restaurant and several homes in the Rosemary District.
There’s reportedly no distribution plan for the film but Odiorne says the Playing Through team is open to selling it to Hulu, Netflix or A24.
Gregory died in 1991 at age 77. She was the first Black female golfer to compete on the national scene. Emmy-award-winning sports journalist Michael Eaves noted on Twitter that in 1971, Gregory “finished runner-up at the Senior Women’s Amateur.”
“[I]n 1989, at the age of 76 and competing against a field of 50 women, she won the gold medal in the U.S. National Senior Olympics, beating her competitors by 44 strokes. Gregory won nearly 300 tournaments,” he added.
In a follow-up tweet, he wrote, “She was inducted into the United Golf Association Hall of Fame in 1966, the African American Golfers Hall of Fame in 2006, the National African American Golfers Hall of Fame in 2011, and the National Black Golf Hall of Fame in 2012.”
“She was a determined and confident golfer,” said Renee Powell of Canton, Ohio, who turned pro in 1967, “and she was such a warmhearted, inspirational individual that she helped me by her example, by the kind of person she was. Not enough people know about Ann. She set the stage for every other black female who came into golf after her.”
Powell is part of a shortlist of Black women who have made history in women’s golf, including Eoline Thornton, of Long Beach, Calif., who played in the 1958 Women’s Amateur, and Althea Gibson, who became the first African American to win a Grand Slam title in 1956. The following year she won both Wimbledon and the US Nationals and won both again in 1958.
The Associated Press voted her as Female Athlete of the Year in both years. In 1963 she became the first Black to play on the LPGA tour.
The post Film telling the story of ‘The Queen of Negro Women’s Golf’ in the works appeared first on TheGrio.
Written by Margeaux Sippell | March 15, 2022
Pull out your sandals, because the Sarasota Film Festival has announced its full slate for the 24th annual event.
Highlights include M. Cahill’s Porcupine starring Jena Malone and the HBO Music Box documentary Listening to Kenny G, and there’s good news — both Malone and Kenny G will make appearances at the festival, which takes place both in-person and virtually from April 1-10 in Sarasota, Florida.
The festival will feature a Music Sidebar section, an African American Sidebar, a Spotlight on Sarasota program for feature films from the town where the festival takes place, as well as a short film program.
SPOTLIGHT ON SARASOTA
dir. Balbinka Koreniowska (USA), 2021
Late in her career, Ann Gregory finds the courage to be the first woman of color to enter the USGA Women’s Amateur. She collides with Babs Whatling, a privileged white woman from the south who is searching for her own identity.
Written by Morgan Simpson | June 15, 2021
Sarasota writer Curtis Jordan filmed scenes for his new movie, “Playing Through,” in locations around Venice and Sarasota.
“We’ve used Venice for multiple shots just because it’s a very unique little town,” Jordan said.
Jumping back to the ‘50s for the movie needed close attention to every detail he said. Filming in spots like the Soda Fountain helped make that movie magic.
Filming for the movie ended on Monday at the Soda Fountain and Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Downtown Venice. They had previously filmed at the Historic Venice Train Depot in one of the train cars.
While fictional, the movie is based around Ann Gregory, a Black female golfer in the ‘50s.
Gregory was the first Black golfer to enter into a women’s United States Golf Association event.
Jordan stumbled upon Gregory after he learned his mother played against her in golf during the ‘50s.
He said it stuck in his mind for years and he finally started to write the story after retiring.
“I was like: ‘Why don’t we know more about this woman?’ She’s clearly been a pioneer in women’s golf,” Jordan said. “She’s been a pioneer in social and racial issues, so she should be heralded.”
In “Playing Through,” Gregory’s life crosses paths with a fictional privileged Southern white woman, Babs Whatling, and they are both forever changed from it, according to the movie’s synopsis.
It parallels the two opposite lives of the women playing against each other in golf.
“Both women kind of go through an arc of discovery,” Jordan said.
The movie was directed by Balbinka Korzeniowska and stars Andia Winslow as Anne Gregory and Julia Rae as Babs Whatling.
Not only did Jordan find the story important, but he said everyone involved in the production noticed its importance.
“Everybody cares, one because of the story but two, they see it as an opportunity for their career,” Jordan said.
He said the movie was on a lower budget, so the help from local communities made the filming process possible.
“We really couldn’t have done it anywhere else without this kind of support,” Jordan said about partnering with local groups and the community.
“Everybody in this Suncoast area has been more than generous and more than friendly and have opened their arms to what we are doing,” Jordan said.
Ringling College of Art and Design helped in making the production happen with several of the staff on set being students.
“They have a student body that has been completely entwined in our process,” Jordan said.
Jordan partnered with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe for resources, actors and staff for the movie and the Sarasota Opera for housing.
While many aspects were local including the filming locations, Jordan also partnered with Unbounded Media and had crew members from California.
However, the movie is an independent film so for distribution someone would have to buy it, Jordan said.
“I think we will have a fabulous film, we have a fabulous story and I think we will do a good job at telling it,” Jordan said.
Written by Jenna Brew | May 21, 2021
The lush golf course of Laurel Oaks transforms to tell the story of golf’s ultimate secret legend.
“My mom played against Ann Gregory back in the 50’s, I’ve always wondered why don’t we know more about Ann Gregory. She’s a pioneer in women’s golf, a force in bringing black golfers into the sport," says Jordan.
As tight as local ties weave in this film, Odiorne says it’s just the beginning.
“I, and my partners have intentions of doing more films here in Sarasota, as a matter a fact we trying to put together financing to put together a studio here," says Odiorne.
Seems we can anticipate seeing stars with our Sarasota sunsets soon as 'Playing Through' is set to film at several more locations throughout Sarasota.
As for proceeds from the purse, Embracing Our Differences will benefit directly.
ANN GREGORY PRESS
JoAnne Gregory Overstreet is a 77-year-old retired teacher who lives in Las Vegas. She’s not a golfer. But she is the daughter of one, the only child of golf’s ultimate secret legend, Ann Moore Gregory. Mrs. Overstreet knows what her mother endured as a Black woman playing amateur golf in mid-century America. She tells her mother’s story because she must.
Her mother was born as Ann Moore in 1912 in Aberdeen, Miss. She attended segregated schools and after the death of her parents in a car crash went to school while working as a live-in maid for a white family. It was not fun and games. As a grown woman, she became the first Black golfer to play the 18-hole city-owned course in Gary, Ind. The “big course,” the locals called it. That was in 1947. Nine years later, in 1956, Ann Gregory became the first Black woman golfer to play in a U.S. Women’s Open and, two months later, a U.S. Women’s Amateur.
The latter breakthrough was reported in scores of American newspapers. From an AP account: “This tournament is also noteworthy because of the entry of its first Negro woman golfer. She is 38-year-old Ann Gregory of Gary, Ind., twice the winner of the National Negro Association title.” But she was actually 44. The 44-year-old rookie.
Ann Moore moved to Gary in the 1930s and married Leroy Gregory, a steelworker, in 1939. He was a transplanted Mississippian, too. The warmth of other suns. A bit of poetry from Richard Wright’s typewriter that captured the migration of millions of Blacks from the South, Ann Moore and Leroy Gregory among them.
Mr. Gregory took up golf. Mrs. Gregory took up tennis. Mr. Gregory joined The Par-Breakers, a club for Black male golfers in Gary. Mrs. Gregory asked herself, What is it with these men and that golf? (Same as forever.) Mr. Gregory served on a Navy ship in the South Pacific during World War II. Mrs. Gregory, a young mother with a husband a half-world away, started playing Gary’s city-owned hardscrabble nine-hole course. Mr. Gregory came home and started playing with his wife. Mrs. Gregory beat him like a drum and all his Par-Breaker buddies, too, even when they made her play from the men’s tees.
One day in 1947, Ann and Leroy Gregory went out to play golf. Ann didn’t want to play the little course, the nine-holer to which Black golfers were relegated. But no Black golfer had ever played the big course.
“I’m a resident of Gary,” Ann Gregory told the man in the pro shop, as her daughter recounted it recently. “I pay my taxes. My money’s as good and as green as anybody else’s. I want to play the big course.” Nobody stopped her.
Consider what Ann Gregory endured to get to that first tee, and to others. She was mistaken for country-club help at one USGA event. She wasn’t permitted in the clubhouse for a contestants’ dinner at another. People said rude and threatening things to her. Her attitude was always the same: “Racism is their problem.” Ann Moore Gregory knew who she was, and others did, too. She was invited to play in an exhibition with Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and Althea Gibson. (What a foursome!) She won hundreds of tournaments, local, regional and national. First the trophies took over a room. Later a basement.
She was a church leader at Delaney Memorial United Methodist. She played with the male owner of The Elbow Room, a bar and restaurant in her midtown neighborhood. She was a caterer. She was the first Black woman to serve on the board of the Gary Public Library. She helped Richard Hatcher become the first Black mayor of Gary.
Her daughter the teacher, JoAnne Gregory Overstreet, married a civil engineer. Now their grandchildren are learning all about their great-grandmother.
Mrs. Overstreet told me the story of her mother’s life as she has told it to others over the last 30 years. Her mother died in 1990, eight months after her father. Mrs. Overstreet packed the scrapbooks and sold the family’s redbrick house. It had three bedrooms, a one-car garage and a front door framed by distinctive stonework. Everything was nearby: JoAnne’s schools, The Elbow Room, her mother’s golf course and hairdresser and sister, the family’s church. Ann Gregory went in and out that front door a dozen times a day as a mother, wife, sister, civic leader, church elder. As a pioneer and an athlete. As a giant.
Ann Gregory is a truly mesmerising figure, her broader impact on golf enabled her to take a key role in the fight against racism. After reading about her legacy on the sporting stage, I felt incredibly disrespectful for not knowing about such a phenomenal sportsperson and role-model.
Gregory was one of the first black female golfers on the golfing scene, with her breakthrough at the 1956 Women’s Amateur Championship in Indiana. Despite her nail-bitingly close loss to Cudone by just a single stroke, Gregory still managed to take the game by storm.
No matter how much contemporaries tried to disadvantage her, she would still come out on top. These obstacles to her progress did not, and would not, stop coming., but this certainly didn’t stop her pathway to success. For instance in later years, at Gleason Park golf course, Gregory refused to use the ‘blacks only’ decrepit nine-hole course - insisting on the primed, full eighteen-hole one exclusive to whites instead. The shocked reactions were met by her indifference, and she was thankfully able to play what she asked for. This embodies the abhorrence of racist attitudes towards Gregory, and her determination to rise above it all and be the best golfer she could be. We should most certainly not allow her to be forgotten again.
Unfortunately, by and large, Gregory’s contributions to golf have been ignored. During her life, she was thanked and glorified by African-American newspapers as “The Queen of Negro Women’s Golf”. Whereas the New York Times only granted her a shameful two references. Sadly, this seems to match the current narrative too. It has forgotten Gregory’s memory to a criminal extent. Ann Gregory was only added to the ‘National African-American Golfers Hall of Fame’ in 2011. At the even later date of 2016, she was included in the USGA (United States Golf Association) ‘Museum’ that commemorates key golfing figures.
Although the by-law that limited the game of golf to those of “the Caucasian race” was repealed twenty-nine years before Gregory’s death in 1990, the effects of racism were, and are, still felt within golf. Ultimately, we certainly cannot continue to overlook such a crucial figure who embodied all the best qualities of a sportsperson, and truly started to break the mould for African-American competitors. She was an inspiration for both women and African-Americans alike, and must be remembered as such.
By Dana Benbow | February 28, 2022
Ann Gregory was walking one morning inside a swanky hotel next to a golf club where, hours later, she would take the course by storm.
Where she would play in a national tournament among a sea of white women, hitting drives so monstrous that -- in some outings -- she was required to hit her first shot from the men's tees.
As Gregory passed a room, another player was unpacking her suitcase. The door was open. "Excuse me, could you get me some hangers?" the woman asked. "I need some for my clothes."
Gregory was Black, wearing all white. The other player was white and mistook Gregory for a hotel maid.
"Mom didn't say anything other than she smiled graciously and got the hangers," said her daughter, JoAnn Gregory Overstreet. "She got the hangers and took them back to the room."
Out on the course later that day in 1963, the woman who had asked for the hangers saw Gregory competing in the tournament. She quickly realized her mistake.
"She was so embarrassed, but mom was always gracious," said Overstreet. "She was there to play golf. She always said racism was in the eye of the beholder."
That attitude took Gregory, a woman born in Aberdeen, Mississippi, in 1912, on a journey competing on the world's biggest stages of golf. It took her on a journey laden with bigotry and prejudice, too many obstacles to count and too much happiness to care.
Gregory, who first picked up a golf club at 31 to pass time while her husband was away at World War II, went on to become the first Black woman to play in a USGA championship.
She did it at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis playing in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. She did it at a time when the PGA had a Caucasian clause that banned nonwhites from membership. She did it for one reason.
"She loved the game of golf," Overstreet said. "And she didn't care about the fact the color of her skin should matter. And she lived by that."
The newspapers in 1956 got Gregory's age wrong. One said she was 28. Another said 38. When Gregory became the first Black woman to play in a USGA Championship, she was 44.
By that time, Gregory was living in Gary, Indiana. By that time, she had won many other tournaments for Black players -- the Chicago Women's Golf Association Championship, the Joe Louis Invitational and the United Golf Association Championship.
But this tournament was different. As the first round began on a windy September day in 1956, "there was a mob at the first tee," golfer Carolyn Cudone told Golf Journal magazine in 1998.
“A lot of them were reporters," Cudone said. "I was shocked by the crowd's size because, in those days, first-round matches didn't often draw so many people.”
But no United States Women's Amateur had ever had a Black woman playing in its midst. Gregory had qualified for the USGA tournament with a required low handicap. Neither Meridian Hills nor USGA stopped her from playing.
The PGA still had its Caucasian clause in 1956. That wouldn't be lifted until five years later. But Gregory wasn’t a member; she was simply participating in a tournament.
And some people didn't like that.
Cudone, who was paired to play Gregory in the first round, told Golf Journal she vividly remembers the words a club parking attendant said to her father before the match: “Your daughter better win today or you'd better not come back to this parking lot.”
Gregory came out strong, taking a two-stroke lead on Cudone, the tournament's projected winner.
Gregory ended up losing the match. Marlene Steward won the tournament. But history was made.
A photo titled "Smiling Loser" ran in the Indianapolis News the next day showing Gregory swinging her club. Her presence as the first Black woman ever to play in the Women's National Amateur golf tournament was said to have "caused a flurry of excitement."
Meridian Hills club president Kevin Markey is proud of what happened at his course all those years ago.
"That is historic. That is really cool," Markey remembers thinking when he heard of Gregory's feat. "I mean, I was just pleased that we were part of that history."
Gregory's early life was marked by grief, devastation and hard work. Her parents, Henry and Myra Moore, died when she was a young girl.
A white family took Gregory in and agreed to pay for her food, housing and clothing -- in exchange for her being their maid.
In later years, the then-Ann Moore said she was mistreated by that family and that she was thrilled to meet Percy Gregory. The two married in 1938 and moved to Gary.
There Gregory, who had always been athletic, began to shine. She started playing tennis and soon was the Gary city tennis champion.
Gregory had never played golf, but Percy did. He was in a golf club called the Par-Makers, for Black men.
Gregory started going to the golf course with her husband and thought this was a sport she could be good at. When Percy was sent with the Navy to World War II, Gregory decided she would go to the golf course and swing a club.
"She knew there was just something about golf that lifted her sprits," Overstreet said.
Gregory had a competitive spirit. If she was going to play any sport, she was going to make sure she was the best she could be.
Gregory hired Calvin Ingram, a veteran of the United Golfers Association, which was part of the Black golf circuit, to give her lessons.
"The minute she hit that ball, he said, 'You are meant to play this game of golf,'" said Overstreet. "He knew she was something special."
Gregory took what Ingram said and dug in her heels. She was determined to take the talent she had and make something of it. And that meant practice.
But it wasn't always easy getting on the courses Gregory wanted to play, said Overstreet. In Gary, Gregory was relegated to a 9-hole course where Black players were allowed. The 18-hole South Gleason Golf Club that Gregory wanted to play had not been integrated.
"Mom went up to them one day with her money and said she was a taxpayer in that city," said Overstreet. "And she didn't see why there couldn't be anyone of any color participating there."
Gregory laid her money down on the counter and walked onto the first tee. No one stopped her.
During her life, Gregory won more than 300 golf tournaments, including four United Golfers Association national women’s championships. She also won titles in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Jamaica and Spain. She played in 27 USGA tournaments.
The USGA has been building a collection to honor and commemorate Gregory, and recently purchased her contestant badge from the 1956 tournament at Meridian Hills. They bought it from a friend of Gregory's, who was an avid collector.
"She held onto the badge and counted it among her most precious collections," said Kylie Garabed, the USGA Museum's curator of collections. "Now, it's among our most prized possessions."
What Gregory did, playing golf as a Black woman in the 1940s and 50s, wasn't unheard of, Garabed said. There were golf clubs founded for Black women that were thriving.
"But it was rare in the elite competitive national championships at the time," said Garabed. "It still is rare, honestly."
Because Black golfers weren't playing in mainstream circuits in the early part of the 20th century, many have been overlooked. The museum wants to tell the stories of those players.
Overstreet recently donated a set of clubs, a golf bag and some other significant items from her mom's playing career to the USGA Museum.
Meridian Hills, too, is working to honor Gregory on its wall of fame, said Markey.
"We're really pleased to be connected," he said. "To be connected to that singular, historic achievement Ann Gregory made back then."
Overstreet often thinks about the saying, "Give me roses while I'm alive so I can smell them."
It wasn't until after Gregory's death that people started reaching out to Overstreet to honor her mom.
"It's one of those things you hope in a lifetime it will happen, you hope she could see it," Overstreet said. "It was unfortunate."
Gregory died in 1990 at the age of 77. She played in Senior Women's Amateur tournaments until her death. In 1989, months before she died, Gregory won the gold medal in the U.S. National Senior Olympics, beating a field of 50 women by 44 strokes.
She was inducted into the United Golf Association Hall of Fame in 1966, the African American Golfers Hall of Fame in 2006, the National African American Golfers Hall of Fame in 2011 and the National Black Golf Hall of Fame in 2012.
"They called her a pioneer and a trailblazer," said Overstreet.
Gregory was a pioneer and trailblazer, but not only in golf. She was responsible for integrating the Gary Public Library Board as the first Black member. She served on too many community boards to count -- churches, the United Way, hospitals.
But Overstreet said her mom would always let those organizations know when golf season came around. Gregory would work all winter serving her community and then take a break to play golf.
And on those breaks, Gregory made golf history. "Ann Gregory was the best Black female golfer of the 20th century," Arthur Ashe wrote in his book.
In her early years, Gregory was called the queen of Black golf, Overstreet said. But really, she was the queen of golf.
"She knew she was gifted and that she was the best," Overstreet said. "She said, 'I'm going to play because I know I can play. It doesn't matter to me what color you are. It's just a love of the game of golf."
Overstreet begins to read the words from an article published after her mom's death.
"She was described as a breath of fresh air and an inspiration to golfers and others as she played," Overstreet said. "She also was said to endure painful slights with warmth, humor, courage and good sense. She actually cherished the game. And in the end, she honored it."