Little Known Black History Fact: John Shippen, First Black Pro Golfer

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    John Shippen was the first black person to play professional golf. Shippen, who was half black and Indian, lived on the reservation with others in the Shinnecock Hills. He was originally hired to help clear out the space for the new golf course and, before long, was giving lessons to the white players. In one summer, Shippen had made $15 after giving lessons. He had learned to play the game from Scotsman Willie Dunn. As Dunn’s new caddie with golf skills, 16-year-old Shippen was soon invited to play in the 1896 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

    The white players tried to boycott the event upon learning that Shippen was black, but he had the backing of then USGA President Theodore Havermeyer. In the 1896 U.S. Open, Shippen ended with a final round of 81 and a 36-hole total of 159, taking fifth place out of 35 players and won $10. He was not only the first black player, but he was the first American-born professional golfer to enter the U.S. Open Championship. Shippen would continue to play in four additional competitions, in 1899, 1900, 1902 and 1913.

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