Marcus Byrd Lands Genesis Invitational Sifford Exemption
February 01, 2023
By Tom Mackin
Marcus Byrd can keep a secret. A big one.
The 25-year-old professional golfer knew he had received the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption into the 2023 Genesis Invitational at Riviera CC on. Feb. 16-19 but couldn’t tell anyone for a few weeks.
“I’ve just been trying to avoid the topic of conversation, honestly,” he said. “I had a few people ask me, ‘You know who is going to get that?’ I was just like, ‘Nah. I don’t know.’
The second-year pro did know, though, and the rest of the world found out on Jan. 23 when Tournament Host Tiger Woods made the official announcement.
“Marcus has shown resiliency and perseverance in pursuit of a professional playing career,” Woods said. “These are qualities that remind me of Charlie and his journey. I look forward to watching Marcus compete at Riviera.”
Even better news for the East Coast native is that he’ll arrive at Riviera with a Southern California win under his belt after capturing the Advocates Professional Golf Association Tour (APGA) Farmers Insurance Invitational by five strokes on Jan. 30 at Torrey Pines GC. That title came with $30,000 and a spot in the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic Feb. 23-26, but first up is the Genesis Invitational, where he will become the 15th recipient of the Sifford Memorial Exemption, which honors Sifford, the first African-American player to compete on the PGA TOUR and the winner of the 1969 Los Angeles Open at Rancho Park GC.
“I grew up in Washington D.C. and played at Langston Golf Course,” Byrd recalled. “One day my dad and I were walking into the clubhouse and Mr. Sifford was sitting right in the dining area. I didn’t really notice him because I was just an oblivious little kid, but my Dad told me to go over there and talk to him. That was my first time laying eyes on him and really understanding his history and what he’s done for the game. To be able to be this year’s recipient and play in his name is just one those things in life that comes full circle. It’s really just a blessing.”
Byrd, who played collegiate golf at Middle Tennessee State University, has a Tiger story, too.
“Tiger used to host the AT&T National event at Congressional Country Club (in Potomac, Maryland) and I used to go to that as kid,” noted Byrd. “I remember very vividly being out there and I had the whole Tiger outfit on and a picture of him to sign. I was standing at the corner of the range and I knew he was going to be walking by me. He was heading for the first tee and didn’t really notice me at the time. Instead of me being like, “Aw man, Tiger didn’t sign an autograph for me,’ I told my dad it’s alright, one day he’ll have to sign my scorecard. That was kind of like the fuel for me to get where I am now. Tiger probably doesn’t know, but that was probably the best thing that could have happened.”
Byrd hopes to land a practice round at Riviera with John Rahm, Rory McIlroy or Scottie Sheffler, and he has plans on getting more than just an autograph from Tiger that week. “To be able to pick his brain and learn how things work out there and be able to ask him questions, I think that’s going to be the biggest treat for me,” he said. “That’s knowledge that money can’t buy. I’m looking forward to it for sure.” That, and honoring Mr. Sifford, who was also inducted into the SCGA Hall of Fame in 2011.
“To think that I’ll forever be a part of this tournament’s storied history means a lot. I cannot wait to compete at Riviera and represent Mr. Sifford with my play.”