Flint's Willie Mack III to make PGA Tour debut, thanks to exemption from Tiger Woods

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
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Flint's Willie Mack III is about to make his PGA Tour debut.

And he can thank arguably the greatest golfer ever for that opportunity.

Flint's Willie Mack III will make his PGA Tour debut next month in the Genesis Invitational.

The PGA Tour on Tuesday awarded Mack an exemption into next month's Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. Tournament host Tiger Woods announced the exemption to Mack. The Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption — named after the PGA Tour's first Black player, who won twice on the Tour —  has been awarded since 2009, and promotes diversity in golf. 

“Willie learned to golf with his dad just like I did and those are memories that will last forever. I am excited to see Willie make another lasting memory when he tees it up at Riviera,” Woods said in a statement.

“Willie has endured through difficult times off the course the past few years and I know Charlie would be proud of how he has stayed focused on achieving his dream.”

Mack, 32, starred at Grand Blanc High Schol before playing collegiately at Bethune-Cookman, where he won 11 individual titles. In 2011, he became the first Black player to win the Michigan Amateur.

He has played a variety of mini-tours since leaving college, including the Advocates Pro Golf Association, on which he won a tournament last January. That tour is a developmental circuit that promotes diversity. More recently, he has played extensively in Florida, winning a tournament and $5,000 in Daytona last month. He was player of the year on the APGA and Florida Professional Golf Tour in 2019.

Mack also has played the Korn Ferry Tour and the PGA Tour's Latinoamérica Tour.

At Riviera, Feb. 18-21, he will join other Michigan natives like Donnie Trasper and Jake Kneen who made their PGA Tour debuts in the last year.

“I want to thank my father who introduced me to the great game of golf,” Mack said in a statement Tuesday. “My dream since I first picked up a club has been to play on the PGA Tour. It’s really special that I will play in my first PGA Tour event because of an exemption named after Charlie Sifford, a person I’ve long admired, and in a tournament hosted by Tiger Woods, who is the reason I got into golf.”

Woods has served as the host of the Genesis since 2019. Before that, he hosted a tournament outside Washington D.C. that was sponsored by Quicken Loans, before Quicken Loans brought a PGA Tour tournament to its home state, the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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