THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The North Course at Torrey Pines typically is busy with a Saturday pro-am for players who miss the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open. This year, it featured an 18-hole competition for the fledgling Advocates Pro Golf Association.
Now the APGA Tour is picking up even more momentum.
The Farmers Insurance Open announced Tuesday that Kamaiu Johnson, who won the APGA Tour Championship last year, has been awarded a sponsor’s exemption to play his first PGA Tour event next year.
The APGA Tour was established 10 years ago to prepare Black and other minority golfers to compete and gain better access across the golf industry. This year at Torrey was the first time an event was staged at a PGA Tour site. The North and South courses are used for the opening two rounds.
Farmers Insurance has provided funding for APGA Tour events and has sponsored two players, such as Johnson and Willie Mack III.
“We value diversity and are proud to help support the APGA Tour in its mission to level the playing field for many talented golfers,” said Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers. “The APGA Tour is doing incredible work to expand the game of golf and we are thrilled to be able to provide Kamaiu the chance to play in his first-ever PGA Tour tournament.”
Johnson, who finished in the top 10 in the last five APGA events last year, grew up in a tiny Florida town and played on a youth travel baseball team with former Chicago Cubs All-Star Addison Russell. But he dropped out of the eighth grade because he was put in a class for slow learners and felt torn down.
Living with his grandmother in a crowded two-bedroom apartment near a golf course, he was spotted swinging a stick by the city golf superintendent, Jan Auger. She made him a deal. If he helped around the club, he could play for $1 a round. For the next five years, Johnson practically lived at Hilaman Park, honing his game.
Along with some 10 victories on mini-tours, he has won the Tallahassee Open three times. Now he’ll compete against the world’s best, a field that typically includes Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
“When I spoke with Jeff virtually and he shared the exemption news with me, I was in shock,” Johnson said. “Earlier this year, I said I wanted to be back at Torrey Pines but playing on the South Course and now that statement is a reality. The opportunity to play in the Farmers Insurance Open is the culmination of a lot of work that I’ve put into the game, but also the sacrifice and help from so many others.”