The Golf Association of Michigan extended a helping hand on Thursday to assist with tournament operations at The JOHN SHIPPEN National Women’s Invitational Presented by Rocket Mortgage hosted at Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids.
A GAM crew of eight volunteers served as both rules officials and scorers for the women’s LPGA qualifier event which aims to create opportunities for black male and female golfers. The JOHN SHIPPEN Invitational continues the history and legacy of John Shippen, the first American-born golf professional and first black golf professional.
The winner of the 16-player field, Sadena Parks (Hollywood, Fla.), rallied on the second day, finishing with a 2-under 73-69-142 to earn an exemption into the LPGA Meijer Classic June 16-19 at Blythefield Country Club. The GAM presented an additional award to the low amateur in the field, Amari Avery from Riverside, Calif. (71-77-148). Avery plays collegiately for the University of Southern California.
The Golf Association of Michigan, founded in 1919, is the governing body for amateur golf in the state. As a not-for-profit organization, its mission is to represent, promote, preserve, and serve the best interests of the game.
“I think from the GAM’s perspective we’re excited to be involved and play a small part in what Intersport and The JOHN SHIPPEN Invitational are doing to bring a platform to these players,” said Kyle Wolfe, who is in his seventh season with the GAM and is Director of Member Services and oversees its junior golf programs. “We’re here to help with any rules issues that come up, make sure that the course is set up properly, and to put together the rules sheets.”
Among the veteran GAM members who worked the John Shippen were Robert Ofoli (East Lansing) and Judy Lazzaro (Troy), who co-chair the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for the Association. Ofoli is an engineering professor at Michigan State, while Lazzaro recently worked the NCAA Division 3 women’s finals in Houston.
Southfield’s Inez Bridges, a 25-year veteran rules official, wears a variety of hats for the GAM. On staff she is the Strategic Partnership Coordinator for the Association and also serves on the volunteer board as an Honorary Governor.
“I started with the GAM several years ago thanks to a friend of mine, Sara Wold, and I’ve been doing this ever since,” she said. “These ladies are terrific, they know the rules – number one – but they don’t seem to get into enough trouble to need the officials very much,” Bridges said.
Wold, who hails from Ann Arbor, served as a scorer. She has also been a longtime rules official for the USGA and has worked tournaments worldwide.
Other GAM volunteer staff included Bob Partridge (Ada), Janina Jacobs (St. Clair), Claud Johnston (Superior Township), and Francine Pegues (Detroit).
“The course is in great shape,” Wolfe said. “Collin (Romanick), the superintendent at Blythefield Country Club, has done a really good job and the rough is definitely starting to grow a little bit and getting ready for the LPGA coming up here in a couple of weeks (June 16-19). The rough is penal if you miss, but the course is in really, really good shape.”
The 31-year-old Parks shot a 69 to overcome Georgia Oboh (Riviera Beach, Fla.) and Lakarerber Abe (The Woodlands, Texas), each of whom carded identical 72-72-144s.
“I just made putts, I kept it simple, hit shots, focused on each shot,” said Parks, who played at the University of Washington and was the fifth African-American to earn her LPGA card (2015-18). “I kept laughing. I think I play better when I’m having fun. I just have so much joy being out here, seeing the players, seeing a group of girls that I have been playing with my whole life and rooting for my whole life. Having the support around me with these ladies has been tremendous.”
First-day leader Anita Uwadia (Fort Worth, Texas) finished fourth with a 69-77-146.
By winning the Shippen, Parks also earned an exemption into the LPGA Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, July 14-16, at Midland Country Club. During the awards presentation, Parks surprised Uwadia and selected her as partner for the two-person team event.
The GAM will provide tournament administration once again this summer at The JOHN SHIPPEN Men’s Invitational Presented by Rocket Mortgage July 23-24 at the Detroit Golf Club immediately before the PGA TOUR’s Rocket Mortgage Classic. Defending champion Timothy O’Neal (Savannah, Ga.) will try to repeat and earn another PGA TOUR exemption.
The JOHN SHIPPEN Invitational Presented by Rocket Mortgage RESULTS