Legacy of John Shippen and the United States Open

As the US Open gets underway, the legacy of John Shippen Jr. should be remembered.
THE JOHN SHIPPEN National Golf Invitational - Women's - Day Two
THE JOHN SHIPPEN National Golf Invitational - Women's - Day Two / Mike Mulholland/GettyImages

This week many African American and minority golfers are set to tee off at Pinehurst No.2 for a chance to take home the US Open trophy. Players such as Collin Morikawa, Tiger Woods, and Willie Mack III are part of a diverse group of golfers at the Major. They all owe a debt of gratitude to John Shippen Jr.

John Shippen is considered by many to be the first African American professional golfer.

Shippen participated in the 1896 US Open. Despite some protests about the participation of Shippen, USGA president Theodore Havemeyer intervened allowing his involvement. Shippen would then go on to finish in a tie for fifth place in the tournament.

Shippen would go on to be a club professional at several golf clubs and courses throughout the country. He also would participate in five more US Opens. He only missed one cut, with his best finish coming in 1902, where he took once again took fifth place. No other African American would go on to play in the US Open until 1948 when Ted Rhodes participated.

His accomplishments were not recognized until years after he had passed away. In 1986, 90 years after his Open performance, ABC ran a story that covered his time as a golfer. Now his legacy lives on not only with the diversity of the field on tour but his annual invitationals.

The John Shippen Invitational are annual events that allow African American men and women to compete in a 36-hole stroke play tournament. The women's tournament was held this past weekend, with Georgia Oboh winning the event.

Her victory will earn her an exemption to participate in both the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give and the Dow Championship over the next few weeks.

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The men's invitational will take place June 21-23 with the winner gaining an exemption for this year's Rocket Mortgage Classic.