Big-hitting Cameron Champ, who averaged well over 300 yards off the tee at last summer’s U.S. Open, will play in the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club outside of Los Angeles after being named the recipient of the PGA Tour event’s Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old from Sacramento, Calif., turned pro last November, a few months after tying for 32nd at Erin Hills, where he was tied for fourth through the first 36 holes.
Champ joins what is already a loaded field that includes most of the top 10 ranked players in the world as well as tournament host Tiger Woods.
The former Texas A&M golfer reached the finals of Web.com Tour Q-School last fall and is playing that tour on limited status, having finished T-21 and T-40 in his first two starts of 2018. He also missed the cut in the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open, OHL Classic at Mayakoba and the RSM Classic last fall, events he played thanks to sponsor’s exemptions.
The Sifford exemption, awarded annually since 2009 to a golfer representing a minority background to play in the tour stop at Riviera, is given as a way to honor him as the first African-American player to compete on the PGA Tour. Previous recipients have included: Joseph Bramlett, Harold Varner III, J.J. Spaun and Kevin Hall.
“This means a lot to me, as well as my entire family,” Champ said. “Mr. Sifford’s legacy has had a huge influence not only on why I play the game of golf, but also how I seek to use the game as a vehicle for positive change, the celebration of diversity and to make a difference in our communities—all examples that were unquestionably set by Charlie Sifford. It gives me great pride to play in his name at Riviera this year.”
Champ’s paternal grandfather, Mack Champ, is black, worked as a caddie at local courses in Texas in his youth before joining the Air Force, and helped introduce Cameron to the game. Champ’s father, Jeff, is played professional baseball but had his career shortened by injury.
The younger Champ, who has been involved with the First Tee of Sacramento since he was a teenager, won once while playing for the Aggies. Last September, he also helped the U.S. Walker Cup team to victory over Great Britain & Ireland at Los Angeles Country Club.