Sarasota Hosts Multi-Million-Dollar Filming of ’Playing Through.’ The film is inspired from the life of Ann Gregory and a screenplay by a local author Curtis Jordan. Ann Gregory, the first African American to play in a USGA Tournament. What Jackie Robinson was to baseball, Ann Gregory may have been to women’s amateur golf. Gregory, an African American female golfer, was the first Black golfer to play in the USGA National Amateur Championship tournament. This multi-million-dollar independent film entitled “Playing Through,” is currently being filmed in Sarasota.
Much of the filming will take place on Sarasota’s lush Laurel Oaks Golf Course, which has been transformed for the purpose. The film’s writer, Curtis Jordan, is a Sarasota resident who says that this story has been swirling in his mind for several decades. “My mom played against Ann Gregory back in the 50’s,” Jordan says. “I’ve always wondered why we don’t know more about Ann Gregory. She’s a pioneer in women’s golf, a force in bringing black golfers into the sport.”
A scene stealer in the film is related to another Sarasota tie. It is an exclusive purse created by Sarasota’s custom purse design firm BSWANKY, created in partnership with The Diamond Vault in Sarasota. Vintage fashion shines bright throughout the film, but this exclusive purse by local luxury designer BSWANKY may steal the spotlight. BSWANKY has been called “The Louis Vuitton of Sarasota her unique custom designs.
“The Silver Screen Handbag” by BSWANKY, the scene-stealing purse is co-designed by Ilene Wood, owner of the world’s largest private handbag collection in Pennsylvania. It is made of a silver foil stingray, lined with pearlescent ice blue Italian calfskin which is true to the period of the 1950’s. The purse has a custom sterling silver handle exclusive from premier Sarasota jewelry design house Diamond Vault along with bezel-set cabochon cut star sapphires that are asymmetrically set. (RIGHT-the Silver Screen Evening Bag by BSWANKY on set with one of the stars of Playing Through, Julia Rae.) The purse is part of the subject of the Pursonality Exhibit that is showcased at the Coral Gables Museum.
To highlight the film’s meaning and the importance of Ann Gregory’s story, BSWANKY owner Gretchen Bauer will auction off The Silver Screen Handbag following production with all proceeds proudly benefitting Embracing Our Differences, a Sarasota-based nonprofit organization promoting racial justice and diversity.
As tight as local ties weave in this film, “Playing Through” producer Peter Odiorne says it is just the beginning for filmmaking in Sarasota. “My partners and I 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.
“Playing Through” tells the story of the struggle of a young Black woman who successfully competed against some of the nation’s best in women’s golf despite having never touched a golf club until she took up golf at age 33 during World War II, when her husband was serving in the Navy. The film tells of the character and grace she displayed when confronted by human rights challenges of her era. As stated In African-American tennis legend Arthur Ashe‘s book, Hard Road to Glory, it was stated that many observers called Gregory the best African-American female golfer of the 20th century.
A natural athlete who had never swung a club, Gregory took lessons from Calvin Ingram, a fine player and a veteran of the United Golfers Association, the black golf circuit, and discovered that she possessed a natural touch from tee to green. In just three years, Gregory crafted a top-notch game – an impressive accomplishment for someone who had not played golf until her early thirties.
So steadily did her game develop that by 1947 she had 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.”
Ann Gregory’s first chance to pit her game against outstanding white amateurs came in September 1947, when mercantile mogul and golf lover George May invited her to compete at the Tam O’Shanter Country Club in Chicago in his All-American Open. Gregory accepted, later telling Glenn in an interview: “Mr. May told me if anyone said anything to me [at the tournament] to let him know.”
Gregory went on to note that “the galleries were just beautiful to me” and that “my neighbors drove up from Gary to see me play the final round. When I saw them, that is the only time I felt funny. It just did something to me to see my black friends among all those white people, and I cried.”
In 1948 Gregory won a tournament in Kankakee, Illinois, during which she defeated former United Golf Association champions Lucy Mitchell, Cleo Ball, and Geneva Wilson. In 1950 she won the Sixth City Open in Cleveland, the Midwest Amateur, and tied the women’s course record at a Flint, Michigan tournament. On September 17, 1956, she competed in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, thus becoming the first African American woman to play in a national championship conducted by the USGA.
Because she was African American, Gregory was denied entry into the player’s banquet at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda at the conclusion of the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1959 but graciously said that she had come to play golf, not to eat.
In an interview some 20 years later, Gregory said: “I told [USGA Executive Director] Joe Dey it was no big deal. I said, ‘I realize the money I paid to enter the tournament didn’t buy stock in the clubhouse. I’ll eat a hamburger and be just as happy as a lark, waiting on tee number one.’ … I just wanted to play golf.”
In her hometown of Gary, Indiana, African Americans were banned from playing the South Gleason Park Golf Course. However, in the early 1960s, Gregory played that course, stating, “My tax dollars are taking care of the big course and there’s no way you can bar me from it.” She was followed by other African-Americans who played the course soon after her, and the ban was ended.
In 1971, Gregory was runner-up at the USGA Senior Women’s Amateur, making her the first African American to finish as runner-up in a USGA women’s competition. 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. In all, during her career Gregory won over 300 tournaments during her lifetime and placed as runner-up in the USGA Senior Amateur at the age of 70.
Playing the role of Gregory in the film is another “natural” athlete, Andia Winslow. In April 2006, Winslow became only the fourth African American to ever compete in a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour event and has been called “the most athletic and fit woman in all of professional golf.
A Yale graduate and track and field competitor, Andia also has had acting experience and does voice-overs for a number of clients, When not competing, Andia Winslow serves as a seasonal Golf Teaching Professional and Fitness Trainer at Chelsea Piers, world renowned athletic and entertainment facility in New York City.
Content provided by multiple sources including Bswanky, Laurel Oaks Golf Course, Media Reel BSWANKY by MakSchu Productions LLC, USGA, and IMDb. Photos are a combination of stock and others for editorial use only. All rights reserved.