Introducing The John Shippen and its exemption for Black golfers into PGA, LPGA Tour events

John Shippen will now be honored with an event in his name that offers exemptions into the PGA and LPGA Tour events.

courtesy John Shippen Memorial Golf Foundation

There’s a new event in American golf and it’s offering an exemption into PGA and LPGA Tour events. It’s called the John Shippen National Invitational, and it’s for the best male and female Black golfers in America.

The nation’s best Black golfers will compete at Detroit Golf Club on June 27th and 28th, prior to the Rocket Mortgage Classic which plays at the same course the following week. The first-place male finisher will then earn a spot in the Rocket Mortgage Classic days later. The women’s event will also be played at DGC, and will feature two-person teams since the LPGA’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational is a two-person team event held in Midland, Mich. July 14-17.

Participants will have a practice round at Detroit Golf Club’s north course on Saturday June 26th, then play their first round on the south course on the 27th and the final round on the north course again on the 28th.

The event is named after John Shippen Jr., who was America’s first Black golf professional. Shippen was originally a caddie at Shinnecock Golf Club out on Long Island, where he competed in the first six U.S. Opens. He eventually worked at prestigious clubs like Maidstone and Aronimink before Shady Rest Golf Course, which owns its own special place in Black golf history. It was the first African-American-owned and operated club in the nation. Shippen’s name will now stand out even more in the golf world as the event highlights the best Black golfers in the country, and will cover all transportation costs for the participants.

“The John Shippen aims to address barriers that have prevented talented Black golfers and aspiring business professionals from realizing their dreams of playing professional golf or working in the golf industry,” said Rocket Mortgage CEO Jay Farner. “Rocket Mortgage is proud to support this event.”

John Shippen making a swing back in 1913. Getty Images

Beyond the involvement from Rocket Mortgage, Detroit itself is an apt place to host the John Shippen Invitational. It was at Rackham Golf Course back in the 1950s where Ben Davis became the first Black head pro at a municipal course in America. Davis became a beloved figurehead in the Detroit golf scene, so much so that the Detroit Open is now named after him.

It was at Rackham where Davis got to know Joe Louis, the world-famous boxer who doubled as an avid golfer who broke barriers set by the PGA of America at the time, in addition to annually hosting the Joe Louis Open. It was at that event where, like The John Shippen, the best Black golfers were invited to compete, with Louis often paying the $1,000 entry fee. 

The event will be followed by a virtual conference called the John Shippen Sports Business Summit that hopes to create awareness and opportunities for high school and college students of color within sports. 

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