Wyatt Worthington II living the dream after SHIPPEN win
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Soaks up congratulations from his heroes at Rocket Mortgage Classic
Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
Wyatt Worthington II wins men's division of THE JOHN SHIPPEN
DETROIT – Wyatt Worthington II was feeling it on the greens as he shot 65 to win THE JOHN SHIPPEN National Golf Invitational presented by Rocket Mortgage on Sunday, earning a spot in the field at this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic.
In fact, the teaching pro from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, said, his second round featured so many birdie bombs as to recall a similar performance watched by millions worldwide.
“It was pretty much like Cameron Smith at The Open,” Worthington said. “I just rolled every single putt I looked at. I gave myself as many chances as I could. It wasn't as smooth sailing on stretches from 13 through 15, I scrambled to make pars and kind of keep the momentum going and made birdie on 16 and 17 and secured my par on 18. It all worked out.”
The efforts to diversify golf will continue with the Rocket Mortgage at Detroit Golf Club this week. THE JOHN SHIPPEN, designed to showcase Black amateur and professional golfers, debuted last year, when Tim O’Neal triumphed for the spot in the Rocket Mortgage field. This year it was Worthington (73-65), who finished one ahead of Michael Herrera (71-68).
Worthington was 14 when he met Tiger Woods at a Tiger Woods Foundation junior clinic in Columbus, Ohio. Woods told him to trust the process, but that can be easier said than done, what with the cost of trying to make it. Worthington qualified to play in this year’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills, and the 2016 PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
Although those were great accomplishments – Worthington tied for fourth at the most recent PGA Professional Championship, punching his ticket to Southern Hills – Black players have been underrepresented in the game’s upper echelon.
“Playing in the PGA Championship (via his T4 finish at the PGA Professional Championship), I believe there's only two individuals, Tom Woodard and myself, that's made it through that route,” Worthington said.
The minority-focused APGA Tour has ramped up to try to make positive change, and Flint native Willie Mack III, one of its stars, made his first cut on TOUR at last year’s Rocket Mortgage.
That was also the first year for THE JOHN SHIPPEN, which is named after John Shippen, Jr., who was the first American-born golf professional and the country’s first Black golf professional. (Shippen was bestowed PGA of America membership posthumously in 2009.) The tournament pays all costs, from entry fees to travel and lodging, for competitors. When Worthington shot 75-70 last year, he said, “I’ve never had anything like this.” Now that he’s won the tournament, he’s entering yet more uncharted territory.
“It’s life-changing,” he said. “But the more that I look at it, it's actually a dream come true. I can't tell you how many times I've seen Tiger's interviews like this. I can't imagine myself actually being here. I know I wanted to work on my game to get to this point, but actually living this, I can't really fathom that. Yeah, this is an unreal experience.”
Worthington said he gives between four and eight lessons a day at The Golf Depot, a driving range and renovated nine-hole course in central Ohio. There are camps in the summer, and junior clinics. He plays in as many APGA Tour events as he can get to, and caddies in the winter. Anything to keep chasing the dream of playing on the PGA TOUR.
“I've been getting shown a lot of love actually even from the TOUR guys congratulating me,” Worthington said of his reception since earning his spot in the field. “I'm like, ‘You guys know who I am? This is crazy. I know who you are!’
“And the members from the Detroit Golf Club, it's been nothing but love and support,” he added. “Everyone's cheering me on and wants to see me succeed, so hopefully I can do that for them.”
Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and golf.com joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.