|Full name||John Matthew Shippen|
December 2, 1879|
May 20, 1968 (aged 88)|
Newark, New Jersey
|Height||5 ft 6 in (1.68 m)|
|Weight||158 lb (72 kg)|
|Best results in major championships|
|U.S. Open||T5: 1896, 1902|
|The Open Championship||DNP|
John Matthew Shippen Jr. (December 2, 1879 – May 20, 1968) was an African American golfer who competed in several of the early U.S. Opens. Born in Washington D.C., he was the son of Presbyterian minister John Shippen Sr. and Eliza Spotswood Shippen.
Shippen's best finishes came at the 1896 U.S. Open held at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York, and the 1902 U.S. Open held at Garden City Golf Club in Garden City, New York, where he tied for fifth place at both.
When he was nine his father was sent to serve as minister on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation—close to Shinnecock Hills—one of America's earliest golf clubs. John Jr. worked as a caddie at the course and was taught to play by the club's Scottish professional, Willie Dunn Jr.
1896 U.S. Open
The Shinnecock Hills course was chosen to host the second U.S. Open in 1896. Shippen played superb golf, finishing in fifth place. Prior to the start of the tournament, some club members had been so impressed with Shippen's talent for the game that they decided to pay his entry fee for the tournament, along with that of his close friend, Oscar Bunn, a Shinnecock Indian. Shippen was allowed to play because he registered as an Indian (his mother was Shinnecock) rather than as a black.
When the professional entrants for the competition found out a racial controversy had begun and they threatened to boycott the event, but they backed down after USGA president Theodore Havemeyer stated that the tournament would proceed even if only Shippen and Dunn took part. Shippen was paired with Charles B. Macdonald, winner of the first U.S. Amateur in 1895. He was tied for second place after the first of the two rounds, and remained in contention until he drove his ball onto a sandy road at the 13th hole and scored an eleven. If he had made par on that hole, he would have made a playoff for the championship, but he still finished in a tie for fifth and won $25 as the fourth-placed non-amateur. Scottish-born James Foulis won the $150 first prize.
Shippen played in five more U.S. Opens, and his best finish was a tie for fifth in 1902. He made his career in golf and served as professional at several clubs, the last of which was Shady Rest Golf Course in New Jersey, where he worked from 1932 until the club was acceded to the township of Scotch Plains in 1964. As a professional, Shippen made and sold his own clubs which bore a stamp reading "J. M. Shippen".
No other African-American played in the Open until Ted Rhodes took part in 1948.
Posthumous PGA of America membership
In 2009, the PGA of America granted posthumous membership to Shippen, Rhodes, and Bill Spiller who were denied the opportunity to become PGA members during their professional careers. The PGA also granted posthumous honorary membership to boxer Joe Louis.
Legacy and death
When the U.S. Open was played at Shinnecock Hills in 1986, Shippen was remembered during the ABC television broadcast. Ironically, for many members of the former Shady Rest club, it was the first time they had learned of his accomplishments.
Results in major championships
Note: Shippen played only in the U.S. Open Championship.
"T" indicates a tie for a place
? = Unknown
Yellow background for top-10
- "John Matthew Shippen's WWII Draft Registration Card". National Archives. 1942.
- "Selected Biography: Goodner, Ross – Shinneck Hills Golf Club (1891-1966)". Shinncock Hills Golf Club. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- "Great Golf By Foulis". The New York Sun. July 18, 1896. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- Justice in Shinnecock Lawsuit? – hamptons.com – July 7, 2005
- "Open Golf Champion". The Saint Paul Globe. Minnesota. October 12, 1902. Retrieved August 26, 2015.
- PBS History Detectives – Shippen Golf Club
- PGA of America bestows membership upon late African-American pioneers Archived 2009-09-07 at the Wayback Machine.