5 things for Rocket Mortgage Classic: Detroit Golf Club; John Shippen; Barry Sanders
The 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic will once again be contested at Detroit Golf Club in Detroit, Michigan.
From Donald Ross, to The John Shippen Invitational, to Barry Sanders, here’s what you need to know about this year’s Rocket Mortgage Classic:
Detroit Golf Club
The famed Donald Ross design was originally a six-hole layout. That’s right: at its inception in 1899 there were only six holes, and the annual dues were just $10. Three more holes were added in 1900, which was still 13 years prior to the club reaching out to Ross to design what we now know as Detroit Golf Club. Ross ended up designing a North and South course, and the Rocket Mortgage Classic course is a composite of the two, with 17 holes from the North course and only one hole from the South course in use (No. 1, which plays as the third hole for the PGA Tour event). Detroit Golf Club has been home to the biggest names in Detroit throughout its history, with famous members ranging from Henry Ford to Justin Verlander to Jerome Bettis. Aretha Franklin even owned a home near the seventh hole, where she is believed to have recorded her 1998 album, “A Rose is Still a Rose.” Two-time Masters champion Horton Smith served as the head club pro at Detroit Golf Club from 1946 until his death in 1963. If you want to attend a Tour event without having to walk a steep golf course all day, Detroit Golf Club is the place to be. When Ross’ famous Detroit design entered the Tour rotation in 2019, it replaced TPC Louisiana as the flattest course on Tour, with a standard deviation of terrain change of just 2.18 feet.
John Shippen Invitational
John Shippen Jr. was a black man born in 1879 to a former slave who gained his freedom after the Civil War. He was also the first U.S.-born golf professional and the first black golf professional, and there is now a tournament in his honor that is partnered with the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The John Shippen National Golf Invitational is a tournament held prior to the Rocket Mortgage Classic, awarding the winner a spot in the Tour event. This year’s winner was Wyatt Worthington II, who shot a final-round 65 in the two-round invitational to earn his spot this week among the game’s best on the famous Donald Ross design. The John Shippen was established to identify historical barriers to and expand upon black representation in the sport of golf and create awareness, access and opportunities for persons of color in the business of sport. Shippen was bestowed PGA of America membership posthumously in 2009.
AREA 313 Celebrity Scramble
The AREA 313 Celebrity Scramble has become a fan favorite during tournament week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and it was back with some big names in 2022. The event consists of six four-player teams competing in a three-hole exhibition match on holes 14-16 at Detroit Golf Club. These three holes have been dubbed “AREA 313”, which is Detroit’s area code, but these particular holes are also part of a fundraising mission at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. A “3” or eagle on hole 14 during the tournament will amount to a $2,500 donation to charity from Rocket Mortgage. A “1” on the par-3 15th will be met with a $10,000 donation. A “3” or birdie on No. 16 will warrant a $2,500 donation. Any player who goes 3-1-3 on holes 14-16 during the tournament will have $313,000 donated in their name toward Rocket Mortgage Classic charities connected to digital access and Detroit’s digital divide. PGA Tour players participating included Will Zalatoris, Tony Finau, Jason Day, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler. Among the celebrities who participated were Barry Sanders, Tom Izzo, Calvin Johnson, Dylan Larkin, Maurice Allen and Kelley James. Each AREA 313 celebrity scramble team also included a player who competed in The John Shippen National Golf Invitational.
PARS ARE NO GOOD
The idea of par being a good score can be relative to the event, and that’s certainly the case at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. The cut was 5 under in 2019 at the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic, which was the lowest on the PGA Tour since 2016. Nate Lashley won that year with a four-round total of 25 under par. Golf course superintendent Jake Mendoza, who spent time on staff at Winged Foot and Medinah before taking the Detroit Golf Club gig in 2018, mentioned in 2020 the green speeds might have been conservative in 2019 and expressed an interest in speeding up the surfaces in 2020. Bryson DeChambeau won the 2020 edition playing at 23 under and Cameron Davis finished at 18 under when he captured the 2021 trophy.
NEXT GEN STARS
Three of the most exciting up-and-comers in the game of golf will be teeing it up this week at Detroit Golf Club. Let’s start with Chris Gotterup, who is fresh off a season at the University of Oklahoma that saw him win the Haskins Award, which is given to the nation’s top collegiate golfer each year. Gotterup has continued to find success early in his Tour career, making four cuts in six starts, including a T-43 at the U.S. Open and highlighted by a T-4 at the John Deere Classic. The University of Texas’ Cole Hammer is also in the field this week in Detroit, and he’s looking to find some of the success that Gotterup has had this summer. Hammer has failed to make the cut in both of his Tour appearances this year (Travelers Championship, 3M Open), but has made two cuts in three starts on the Korn Ferry Tour and finished T-7 in his most recent KFT start. Finally we get to Michael Thorbjornsen, who is actually still an amateur at Stanford University. Thorbjornsen will be making his third Tour start this year. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open but followed that by making waves with a fourth-place finish at the Travelers Championship. He’ll be busy if he makes the cut at the Rocket Mortgage, as he’ll be defending his title in the Western Am next week at Exmoor Country Club, just outside Chicago. The practice round for that event is Monday.