J.J. Spaun earns 2016 Northern Trust Open Exemption
Event also announces commitments from Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy
January 18, 2016
- J.J. Spaun will make his second PGA TOUR start -- this one alongside Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy -- at the Northern Trust Open. (PGA TOUR Canada)
LOS ANGELES – J.J. Spaun, the 2015 Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada Player of the Year and Order of Merit winner, has been awarded the 2016 Northern Trust Open Exemption. A native of Los Angeles and a product of San Diego State University, Spaun’s performance on the Mackenzie Tour in 2015 earned him fully exempt Web.com Tour status this season. He will make his Web.com Tour debut at the Panama Claro Championship, Jan. 28-31.
With the 2016 Northern Trust Open less than a month away, Spaun, 25, was chosen from a pool of applicants to receive the exemption, created and sponsored by Northern Trust (Nasdaq: NTRS). The annual exemption provides an opportunity for a top golfer who represents the advancement of diversity in golf and wouldn’t otherwise be eligible to compete in the event. The Northern Trust Open returns to The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., February 15-21.
“We are pleased to see this year’s Northern Trust Open Exemption go to J. J. Spaun,” said Northern Trust Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frederick H. Waddell. “J.J. sets an example of giving back, including to his home town of Los Angeles, as well as being a terrific golfer with great promise on the PGA TOUR. We look forward to seeing J.J. play at Riviera next month.”
Spaun will make his second PGA TOUR start, teeing it up alongside a strong field that -- announced today -- will include FedExCup champion and World No. 1 Jordan Spieth and, for the first time, Rory McIlroy.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Rory McIlroy to the Northern Trust Open field for the first time, as well as World No. 1 Jordan Spieth,” Waddell said. “There are so many strong, young players with compelling storylines ready to tee it up at Riviera this year; it’s going to be a fantastic event.”
Spaun made the cut in all 11 Mackenzie Tour starts last year, winning the 2015 Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel and posting seven total top-10 finishes en route to claiming the No. 1 spot on the Order of Merit and Player of the Year honors. He was a two-time All-American at San Diego State University (2011, 2012) and Mountain West Player of the Year, finishing with five collegiate wins.
“I know as my notoriety grows, I can do so much more to grow the game of golf, and that is one of the main reasons why I work as hard as I do,” said Spaun, who volunteers his time with The First Tee of Los Angeles and The First Tee of San Diego. “As a product of The First Tee program in the Los Angeles area, I have seen and experienced firsthand the impact that golf can have on not just minorities but on the disadvantaged. The game has so much to give everyone, but especially to kids who need to be introduced to it to learn the values of the game that can help them in life. It is my mission to give back more than I have been given.”
Spaun, who is of Filipino descent from his mother’s side -- she is responsible for starting him in the game of golf -- finished T41 at the RBC Canadian Open in 2015, his only previous PGA TOUR start.
Now in its eighth year, the Northern Trust Open Exemption is an extension of Northern Trust’s commitment to diversity. Northern Trust has received multiple awards for corporate excellence and diversity, including being named a “Best Company for Working Mothers” by Working Mother Magazine for more than 20 years, a “50 Best Companies for Latinas” by LATINA Style Magazine and one of the “40 Best Companies for Diversity” by Black Enterprise magazine.
“Receiving the Northern Trust Open Exemption is a true honor that will not only assist me in making progress toward my goal of being a world-class PGA TOUR player, but will also show kids that dreams really can come true and the hard work is worth it,” Spaun said.
Previous Northern Trust Open Exemption recipients include Vincent Johnson (2009), Joshua Wooding (2010), Joseph Bramlett (2011), Andy Walker (2012), Jeremiah Wooding (2013), Harold Varner III (2014) and Carlos Sainz, Jr. (2015).
Candidates for the 2016 Northern Trust Open Exemption were identified through a number of sources including the PGA TOUR, PGA of America through the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship, Web.com Tour, The First Tee, World Golf Foundation, USGA and the Bill Dickey Scholarship Association, with additional outreach efforts to potential recipients of Hispanic and Asian descent both in the United States and internationally. Candidates are asked to provide general biographical information, details of their golf accomplishments and an explanation of how they have represented the advancement of diversity in golf. In order to qualify for the exemption, applicants must have a USGA handicap of zero or better.
The Northern Trust Open has a long history of promoting inclusion among minorities. In 1948, the tournament welcomed Bill Spiller and Ted Rhodes as the first African-Americans to play in a sponsored PGA TOUR event. In 2009, the inaugural tournament exemption was named in honor of Charlie Sifford on the 40th anniversary of his victory at the 1969 Northern Trust Open.
McIlroy joins the Northern Trust Open field for the first time and returns to the PGA TOUR for his first start of the 2015-16 season since the fall’s Frys.com Open (T26) and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions (T11).
“I’m very excited that the Northern Trust Open is in my schedule for the first time,” McIlroy said. “I’ve heard so many positive things about the tournament and the exceptional quality of the course. Many legends of the game have played and won at this iconic venue throughout its long history, so I’m really looking forward to visiting LA and experiencing Riviera for myself.”
Spieth, a winner two weeks ago at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, is no stranger to the Northern Trust Open or Riviera. In 2012, Spieth won the NCAA Championships at Riviera while playing for the University of Texas. He had received a sponsor’s exemption to compete in the Northern Trust Open earlier that same year as an amateur (MC), and he has improved his finish in the tournament ever since: T12-2014; and T4-2015.
“This tournament means a lot to me,” said Spieth during the 2015 Northern Trust Open. “I think this is one of the greatest golf courses in the world. This event is one that I owe a lot back to. It was a great experience getting that PGA TOUR start that then helped our team win the NCAA Championship that year. We got some good insight on pin locations and how it would play. It’s dear to my heart.”
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