Top-Ranked APGA Collegiate Ranking Golfer To Earn REX Hospital Open Exemption

RALEIGH, North Carolina — In partnership with the Korn Ferry Tour, UNC REX Healthcare announced that one of their title sponsor exemptions for the REX Hospital Open will be given to the top-ranked player in the Advocates Professional Golf Association (APGA) Collegiate Ranking for each of the next two years (2021, 2022).

Four-time PGA TOUR winner Lee Elder, who broke down racial barriers as the first Black golfer to play in the Masters (1975) and the first to represent the United States in the Ryder Cup (1979), was grateful to see strides being taken to provide more opportunities for Black golfers in the professional ranks, “When I was coming up, we didn’t have this to look forward to, but I’m so proud to see REX Hospital do this,” said Elder. “This is going to make a big difference for these players. I think you're going to now see more young Black kids will now begin a career and that it is not going to take them a long time to reach the potential and things that they have set out for themselves. They can come out with an attitude, that ‘I have something to do that’s in my hands. That it is up to me to be able to reach the goal that I set for myself.’ The PGA TOUR is working hard and trying to get things like this to happen. The people that are involved in this will certainly be working to try to make sure that this will happen again for other companies. I will be doing whatever I can to help in any way that I can, and to put a voice out there to make sure that it is going in that direction. I think that one thing the REX Hospital is doing is setting a perfect example and I think that there will be others that definitely follow them.”

The top-ranked APGA Collegiate Ranking golfer will be confirmed at the conclusion of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Golf spring season and in advance of the 2021 REX Hospital Open, which will be played June 3-6 at The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh, N.C. The REX Hospital Open has raised more than $9 million during the past three decades to support patients and services at UNC REX Hospital in Raleigh.

“We are proud to partner with the APGA to provide an opportunity for a top collegiate golfer to compete in one of North Carolina’s premiere golf tournaments,” said Ernie Bovio, president of UNC REX Healthcare. “At UNC REX we have built a culture of equity and inclusion, and continue to look at ways to improve access to care for all patients, especially during the pandemic.”

The APGA was established in 2008 as a non-profit organization with the mission to bring greater diversity to the game of golf. The APGA Tour Board of Directors work to accomplish this by hosting and operating professional golf tournaments, player development programs, mentoring programs and by introducing the game to inner city young people.

“This commitment from UNC REX Healthcare and the Korn Ferry Tour is a major step for the APGA Collegiate Ranking and the APGA Tour’s mission of bringing greater diversity to the sport,” stated Ken Bentley, co-founder and CEO of the APGA Tour. “These college players have big dreams of making it to the highest levels of professional golf and now they have a pathway to make that happen.”

To demonstrate their commitment to growing and diversifying the game of golf, PGA TOUR University and the APGA Tour announced in October a new program to help top Black golfers transition from the collegiate game into the professional ranks. The new APGA Collegiate Ranking, which is supported through the efforts of Golfstat and the Golf Coaches Association of America, identifies five players from Division I, II or III programs – including HBCUs – and exempts them into summer events on the APGA Tour as well as the Pre-Qualifying Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament that same year starting in 2021.

The top five players from the APGA Collegiate Ranking will earn the following benefits for the current season once they turn professional after completion of their collegiate career: entry into all remaining APGA Tour events, travel costs associated with each APGA Tour event, exemption into the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament and Pre-Qualifying Stage unless otherwise exempt into another Stage.

“The Korn Ferry Tour and UNC REX Healthcare are aligned in our vision to create tangible change around diversity, equity and inclusion, and this opportunity is a significant step,” said Alex Baldwin, president of the Korn Ferry Tour. “We must be deliberate in providing more opportunities, and with the help of the APGA and PGA TOUR University, we are excited that the top-ranked APGA Collegiate Ranking golfer’s first professional golf experience will take place on the Korn Ferry Tour at the REX Hospital Open in June.”

The announcement came as part of the PGA TOUR’s commitment to racial equity and inclusion. As part of the plan announced at THE TOUR Championship in 2020, the TOUR committed to pledge at least $100 million over the next 10 years to support nonprofit organizations whose services directly address the inequities and disparities that affect Black citizens as well as underrepresented and underserved populations in the communities in which tournaments are conducted.

The APGA Collegiate Ranking eases the financial costs associated with playing developmental tours as well as application fees for the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament. Eligible players for the APGA Collegiate Ranking are Black NCAA Division I, II or III golfers who exhaust a minimum of four collegiate years.

More information on the 2021 REX Hospital Open can be found at