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2023 Genesis Invitational: This week’s feel-good story is Marcus Byrd, who drew motivation from being stiffed for an autograph by Tiger

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Marcus Byrd didn’t get mad when Tiger Woods stiffed him for an autograph.

This was back in the days of the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Golf Club and Byrd, who attended the tournament every year as a kid was decked out in his red shirt and black shorts. In one hand, he had a picture of Tiger, his favorite player, that he tried to get signed as Tiger made his way to the first tee. But Tiger had his game face on and didn’t stop to make Byrd’s day.

But rather than get mad, Byrd used it as motivation.

“I told my dad one day when I make it to the Tour, he’ll have to sign my scorecard anyway, don’t really need the signature right now,” he recalled during a press conference ahead of the Genesis Invitational. “That was just kind of a thing to keep pushing me forward to getting to where I am.”

Byrd, 25, was selected by Tiger this year to receive the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption into the event at Riviera Country Club, a PGA Tour event with a $20 million purse. On Tuesday, Byrd met Tiger for the first time.

Very cool see to Langston’s own, Marcus Byrd, with Tiger. All of the NLT community will be rooting him on this week!

— National Links Trust (@links_national) February 14, 2023

“It was a pretty special moment just to kind of actually shake his hand and like meet him in person,” Byrd said. “Just kind of look at him face-to-face and actually realize he’s human, that was pretty cool.”

Did Byrd mention that time at Congressional when he didn’t get Tiger’s signature?

“No, no, I haven’t brought it up yet, but I’m sure he’ll hear about it,” Byrd said. “I still want to make sure I earn that. Hopefully we can get that to happen this week.”

Awarded annually since 2009, the Sifford exemption represents the advancement of diversity in the game of golf.

“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.”

Byrd certainly appreciates the significance of his opportunity to play in one of the Tour’s big-money designated events and make a childhood dream come true, but he’s also aware of the bigger picture.

“It’s about the game being inclusive and about giving kids hope,” he said. “Just to be able to show these kids that you can be just like me in these shoes. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about bringing more people to the game and making it more approachable. I think when you get more people that look like me and more people who can spread that, spread the love of the game that way, that’s more important than anything else and I think that’s what the game of golf is really about.”

Marcus Byrd, 2023 Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption recipient during a press conference prior to The Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club on February 14, 2023 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

A native of Washington D.C., Byrd is the youngest of four kids and was introduced to golf by his father, Larry, who started him at the age of 3 at the predominantly Black Langston Golf Course. His father died during COVID just before Byrd turned pro, but on Thursday Byrd will point to the sky before his first tee shot in his father’s memory as he does at every tournament he plays. His mother, who suffered serious injuries in a car accident when Byrd was 9, his grandmother, aunt and sister will make up a supportive gallery.

“They’ve been pretty much my lifeline over these last few years,” he said.

Byrd, a three-time APGA Tour winner and 2019 Conference USA Golfer of the Year when he played at Middle Tennessee State University, isn’t just playing for himself and his family. He considers himself to be representing a much larger community of Black golfers.

“It’s not just my dream, a lot of those guys have had the same dream and for me to be able to be the person to carry the torch for them, it’s an incredible feeling,” he said.

The start at Riviera will be Byrd’s second career appearance in a Tour event. He made his debut at the 2022 Corales Puntacana Championship, where he missed the cut. Byrd also has another start in the big leagues next week at the Honda Classic after winning the Farmers Insurance Invitational, a 36-hole APGA event on the North and South Course at Torrey Pines. Byrd birdied the last two holes to post three-over-par 75 for a 36-hole total of 4 over that was five shots better than runner-up Joey Stills. Seven-time PGA Tour winner Billy Horschel, who played a nine-hole practice round with Byrd on Tuesday, first met Byrd in 2021 at his APGA event at TPC Sawgrass and says Byrd has the game to make it on the Tour.

“He has this inner fire and inner desire to be great,” Horschel said. “He’s got a light-hearted way about himself that people are attracted to but at the same time he wants to kill you on the golf course.”

And he’s still driven to get Tiger’s signature on his scorecard someday, maybe even someday as soon as this week.



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