Willie Mack III, a former Bethune-Cookman University golfer will make his PGA Tournament debut next month with an assist from Tiger “GOAT” Woods.
Woods announced that Mack would be the recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption into the 2021 Genesis Invitational field from February 15-21. Awarded since 2009, the exemption represents the advancement of diversity in the game of golf. The aforementioned Woods and the Tiger Woods Foundation is the host.
In a statement about Mack, Woods said the following:
“Willie learned the game of golf with his dad just as I did and those memories will last forever. I am excited to see Willie make a lasting memory when he tees it up at Riviera. 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 his dream.”
Mack is a native of Flint Michigan and won 11 titles while at Bethune-Cookman. In 2011, Mack became the first African American to win the Michigan Amateur Championship. He currently competes on the Advocates Pro Golf Association (APGA) Tour as well as the Florida Professional Golf Tour, earning Player Of The Year honors for both tours in 2019 and more recently capturing the Riviera Open in Daytona Beach.
Mack says “I want to thank my father who introduced me to the wonderful game of golf. It’s been a dream of mine since I picked up a club to play on the PGA Tour.”
Isn’t it amazing that he’ll get to play in a PGA TOUR, because of an exemption named after Charlie Sifford, a person Mack has long admired? And to be able to do it in a tournament hosted by Tiger Woods, the person who inspired his passion for golf has to be surreal.
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The 2021 Genesis Invitational will be Mack’s first on the PGA TOUR. Willie Mack has previously played on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica Tour.
The exemption itself has traditionally been given to a golfer representing a minority background. The award was renamed in 2017 to honor the memory of Charlie Sifford, the first African-American PGA TOUR member.
Previous players to receive this storied exemption are Vincent Johnson (2009), Joshua Wooding (2010), Joseph Bramlett (2011 & 2020), Andy Walker (2012), Jeremiah Wooding (2013), Harold Varner III (2014), Carlos Sainz Jr. (2015), J.J Spaun (2016), Kevin M. Hall (2017), Cameron Champ (2018), and Tim O’Neal (2019). Bramlett is the only two-time award and exemption recipient.
There are many reasons I consider Woods the best golfer ever. From his ability to just will the ball into the hole, to his classic Sunday chase downs in his traditional red digs. To his overall persona and his captivating and marketable brand.
We all remember Tiger’s 1997 Masters performance, which is still the most dominating I’ve ever seen by a golfer and came 22 years after the first African-American player Lee Elder broke the color barrier as the first to participate in the “Granddaddy” of all golf tournaments.
13 Apr 1997: Tigers Woods wears his green jacket and holds his trophy at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia pic.twitter.com/0j99bssj
— GOLF IN MOROCCO (@golf_inmorocco) November 26, 2012
That day Elder told a group of reporters that Woods “had more potential than Jackie Robinson.” His eventual dominance from (1997-2009) proved this to be true. Tiger has 15 all-time majors wins, just three behind the record held by “The Golden Bear” Jack Nicklaus. His legacy, however, is in full swing regardless of whether Tiger is on the course or even winning, because of guys like Willie Mack whose entire life trajectory was fueled by Tiger Woods’ racial barrier-breaking, mind shocking, body rocking success on the greens.
To top it off, Tiger’s story of redemption and his relationship with his Black father further endears him to a generation of young men of color who saw Tiger Woods and decided that the exclusive world of professional golf could too be conquered.
This right here is another huge reason why Eldrick “TIGER” Woods walks on rarified air and is the “GOAT.”