Former Bethune-Cookman University golfer Willie Mack III will make his PGA Tournament debut next month thanks to Tiger Woods.
Woods announced that Mack is the recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption into the 2021 Genesis Invitational field February 15-21. Awarded since 2009, the exemption represents the advancement of diversity in the game of golf. Woods is the tournament host.
“Willie learned to golf with his dad just like I did and those are memories that will last forever. I am excited to see Willie make another lasting memory when he tees it up at Riviera,” Woods said in a PGA Tour release. “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 achieving his dream.”
Mack, a native of Flint, MI, won 11 titles during his playing career at Bethune-Cookman. In 2011, Mack became the first African American to win the Michigan Amateur Championship. Mack currently competes on the Advocates Pro Golf Association (APGA) Tour and Florida Professional Golf Tour, earning Player of the Year honors for both tours in 2019. He recently won the Rivieria Open in Daytona Beach.
“I want to thank my father who introduced me to the great game of golf,” Mack said. “My dream since I first picked up a club has been to play on the PGA TOUR. It’s really special that I will play in my first PGA TOUR event because of an exemption named after Charlie Sifford, a person I’ve long admired, and in a tournament hosted by Tiger Woods, who is the reason I got into golf.”
The start at Riviera during 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 Latinoamérica Tour.
Since 2009, the exemption has been given to a golfer representing a minority background to play in the annual PGA TOUR event at Riviera. In 2017, the exemption was re-named to honor the memory of Charlie Sifford, the first African American player to compete on the PGA TOUR. Previous exemption recipients include 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).