Five Michigan golfers in Shippen field, will play for coveted spot in the Rocket

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — The tournament before the tournament is set.

Rocket Mortgage Classic officials have announced the field for the second annual John Shippen National Golf Invitational, which will award one exemption into Detroit's PGA Tour stop.

The Shippen, founded in 2021 as an avenue to provide more opportunities to Black golfers and named after the nation's first Black golf professional, will feature a field of 22 golfers, half of whom competed in the first playing last year. Several of the players have local ties.

Tim O'Neal looks back and smiles at some fans after his tee shot on the 10th in Round 1 during the 2021 John Shippen.

Among those in the 2022 John Shippen field are: Marcus Byrd, 24, a professional from Ann Arbor; Joe Hooks, 27, a professional from Detroit and a Wayne State alum; Willie Mack III, 32, a professional from Flint who has five PGA Tour starts, including last summer's Rocket Mortgage Classic; Marcus Smith, 20, who plays at Eastern Michigan; and Troy Taylor II, 22, who plays at Michigan State.

Mack, with more than 70 pro wins worldwide, didn't play in the Shippen last year as he was given a sponsor's exemption into the Rocket Mortgage Classic last year. He made his first PGA Tour cut, tying for 71st.

"The John Shippen is a vehicle to provide opportunities that can fundamentally increase diversity in golf on a national scale," said Jason Langwell, executive director of the RMC and executive vice president of Intersport, which helps run the tournament. "The strength of this year’s men’s field solidifies our confidence that The John Shippen is the right platform for these deserving players to compete, and combat the imbalance of access, opportunities and equity for Black golfers that has long existed in the golf industry.” 

Intersport and the Woods and Watts Effect created the John Shippen, which also has a women's field, which recently awarded exemptions into Grand Rapids' Meijer LPGA Classic and the upcoming Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Midland to that winner, Sadena Parks.

Tournament officials also pay for travel, lodging, food and incidentals for John Shippen participants.

This year's two-day, 36-hole men's John Shippen will be July 23-24 at Detroit Golf Club, the weekend before the start of the fourth annual PGA Tour stop in Detroit.

Last year's John Shippen winner, Tim O'Neal, 49, of Georgia, is back in the field again for 2022, along with: Ryan Alford, 25, of Louisiana; Daniel Augustus, 34, of Bermuda; Aaron Beverly, 27, of California; Kevin Hall, 39, of Ohio; Michael Herrera, 24, of California; Chase Johnson, 26, of Ohio; Kamaiu Johnson, 28, of Florida; Samba Niang, 33, of Senegal; Toks Pedro, 26, of Maryland; Xavier Proctor, 21, of North Carolina; Quinn Riley, 22, of Minnesota; Kristopher Stiles, 19, of California; Joey Stills, 25, of Florida; Trey Valentine, 24, of Mississippi; Everett Whiten Jr., 22, of Virginia; and Wyatt Worthington, 35, of Ohio.

A committee of more than a dozen local and national leaders identified and chose this year's competitors.

“We are excited to welcome the men who have accepted our invitation to participate in The John Shippen National Golf Invitational,” said Sommer Woods, co-founder of Woods and Watts Effect, as well as tournament lead for The John Shippen and volunteer vice chair of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

“We are delighted that The John Shippen continues to provide these players the access to get to the next level and advance their golf careers in a way that has never existed for them.” 

The John Shippen was so well-received in 2021, PGA Tour officials have had discussions about adding similar events throughout the country. There are currently only four Black golfers on the PGA Tour.

Also, for the second year, The John Shippen Sports Business Summit, for high school and college students of color interested in a career in sports, will return. It will be in-person this year, Sept. 23-24 in Detroit.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984