A top Black college golfer will now receive a sponsor exemption into a Korn Ferry Tour event.
UNC REX Healthcare, the title sponsor for the KFT's REX Hospital Open, announced Tuesday that it will reward the top-ranked player in the final APGA Collegiate Ranking, both this season and next, with a spot in Raleigh, North Carolina-based tournament. This year's REX Hospital Open will be played June 3-6 at The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation.
“We are proud to partner with the APGA to provide an opportunity for a top collegiate golfer to compete in one of North Carolina’s premiere golf tournaments,” said Ernie Bovio, president of UNC REX Healthcare. “At UNC REX we have built a culture of equity and inclusion, and continue to look at ways to improve access to care for all patients, especially during the pandemic.”
The APGA Collegiate Ranking debuted last fall and is comprised of Black college golf seniors from NCAA Divisions I, II, and III, as well as HBCUs. The top five players in the APGA Collegiate Ranking at the end of each season will receive, in addition to a KFT exemption, entry into all remaining APGA Tour events that year, travel costs associated with each APGA Tour event and an exemption into the pre-qualifying stage of that year's Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament.
The new ranking is designed to help top Black golfers transition from the collegiate game into the professional ranks.
“This commitment from UNC REX Healthcare and the Korn Ferry Tour is a major step for the APGA Collegiate Ranking and the APGA Tour’s mission of bringing greater diversity to the sport,” stated Ken Bentley, co-founder and CEO of the APGA Tour. “These college players have big dreams of making it to the highest levels of professional golf and now they have a pathway to make that happen.”
Lee Elder, who was both the first Black player to compete in the Masters (1975) and on a U.S. Ryder Cup team (1979), said he was "so proud" to see this KFT exemption extended for each of the next two years.
“This is going to make a big difference for these players," Elder said. "I think you're going to now see more young Black kids will now begin a career and that it is not going to take them a long time to reach the potential and things that they have set out for themselves. They can come out with an attitude, that ‘I have something to do that’s in my hands. That it is up to me to be able to reach the goal that I set for myself.’ The PGA TOUR is working hard and trying to get things like this to happen. The people that are involved in this will certainly be working to try to make sure that this will happen again for other companies. I will be doing whatever I can to help in any way that I can, and to put a voice out there to make sure that it is going in that direction. I think that one thing the REX Hospital is doing is setting a perfect example and I think that there will be others that definitely follow them.”