John Matthew Shippen, Jr., an African American golfer who competed in several early U.S. Opens, was the first American-born golf professional. As a teenager, Shippen worked with crews to help clear the land and build the original Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York. At the age of 16, Shippen earned an assistant professional post at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, where he began giving lessons to many of the club members and became an accomplished player in his own right.
With the 2nd U.S. Open Championship to be contested at Shinnecock Hills, Shippen entered the tournament on July 18, 1896, over the protests of several white English and Scottish professionals in the field.
Shippen finished fifth in the 1896 U.S. Open Championship, received $10 and affirmation of his playing ability. He competed in five more U.S. Opens, the last in 1913 at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
He eventually served as a golf professional at several clubs, including the famed Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., with his last stop at the Shady Rest Golf & Country Club in Scotch Plains, N.J., in 1924. He remained there until his retirement in 1960.
Another lesser-known fact is that Shippen was also a clubmaker. He made and sold his own golf equipment as a professional, which bore a stamp reading “J. M. Shippen.” Today, the John Shippen Foundation and Youth Academy in Scotch Plains is named in his honor.
John Matthew Shippen’s accomplishments:
- The first American-born golf professional
- Shinnecock Hills Assistant professional at age 16
- Competed in 6 USGA Opens, 5th in 1896
- Shady Rest Golf & Country Club (Scotch Plains, NJ) Head Golf Professional 1924-1960
- Professional Clubmaker (J. M. Shippen Golf Clubs)
- Posthumous PGA of America membership (2009)