DETROIT – A partnership conversation over a year ago between the Golf Association of Michigan and the Rocket Mortgage Classic folks has turned into direct involvement regarding the John Shippen Invitational.
“The Rocket Mortgage Classic was looking for administrative help to conduct the John Shippen tournaments and it seemed like a great opportunity for the GAM to support, as well as further our initiatives with diversity and inclusion,” Chris Whitten, the executive director of the GAM said.
“It’s something we know how to do, administer tournaments, it fits with our mission of preserving and serving golf and at the end of the day, it’s a really fun event right here in Detroit.”
The PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic takes to the stage at Detroit Golf Club this week with tour standouts playing championship rounds Thursday through Sunday.
On Saturday and Sunday prior to championship week, the John Shippen Invitational was played at Detroit GC, and the winner, professional Wyatt Worthington II or Reynoldsburg, Ohio, received an exemption into the Rocket Mortgage Classic field.
He shot a final round 7-under 65 to finish at 138, one shot clear of Michael Herrara of Moreno Valley, Calif., who shot 68 to close.
Meanwhile, a low amateur golfer among six amateurs in the field of 22 golfers was recognized by the GAM through its commitment to amateur golf.
Troy Taylor II, a Michigan State University golfer from Westerville, Ohio, took the low amateur honors for the second consecutive year. He shot 68 for 141 and tied for fifth overall. The GAM presented him with a Crystal trophy to honor his accomplishment.
The John Shippen Invitational is the result of the Shippen tournaments and the National Invitational for Black Golfers and the Sports Business Summit for Students of Color being established by Intersport to expand upon black representation in golf and to create awareness, access and opportunities for persons of color in the business of sports. A tournament for women was presented earlier in the summer in conjunction with the LPGA Meijer Classic for Simply Give in Grand Rapids.
A field of 22 golfers competed at Detroit Golf Club over two days and it included some golfers with Michigan ties in addition to Taylor.
Grand Black touring pro and former Michigan Amateur champion Willie Mack III tied for fifth with a closing 67. Farmington Hills pro Joe Hooks also tied for fifth with a 71 and Eastern Michigan University golfer Marcus Smith of Rockford, Ill., shot 76 for 147.
Whitten said the GAM sent out communication among its volunteer force for help administering the tournament and a great response followed.
“Honestly we have more people interested in coming out to help than we had spots, so a lot of people were excited to come here and be part of this,” he said.
The GAM had a volunteer official/walking scorer with each of the 11 twosomes for both days, while Craig Reading served as the lead rules official and Whitten was the tournament starter on the first tee.
“From a rules specific perspective, I think its fun for our volunteer officials to get to walk the course with some of the infrastructure and grandstands all around,” Whitten said. “It’s something we don’t have at our GAM tournaments, so it’s different twist and I think that makes it fun.”
Reading, who works many of the GAM’s most significant events, said he was enjoying the experience for the second consecutive year.
“You get to see some very talented golfers in a very different environment and it makes you feel like you are part of what is going on here this week,” he said. “We are working with the PGA Tour official here, there’s the grandstands to deal with in terms of relief in certain situations. It’s a bit of learning experience, too.”
Jim Wlosinski, a GAM volunteer official, was with the final group, the low scorers through the first round, Chase Johnson and Everett Whiten, Jr.
“I enjoy watching them play,” he said before his group teed off. “They are very talented. We don’t have to do a lot, but it’s fun to be part of it.”