In 6th year, Tiger Woods’ Genesis Invitational continues to be tournament of opportunity

Brennan Genesis Invitational
Wake Forest University sophomore Michael Brennan calls his loved ones while overlooking the first hole at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles on Monday. Brennan placed first in the Genesis Invitational Collegiate Showcase, an accomplishment that earned him a spot in the PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational. (Alyssa Haduck/Medill Reports)

By Alyssa Haduck
Medill Reports

LOS ANGELES — “How about that. How about that.”

That’s the refrain Michael Brennan repeated on a phone call with his mother following his win at the Genesis Invitational Collegiate Showcase on Monday. 

The Wake Forest University golfer sat on the crest of the Riviera Country Club’s first tee, under the Southern California sun, celebrating the 5-under-par round of 66 that earned him first place in the showcase and a spot in the PGA Tour’s upcoming Genesis Invitational, and chatting with his loved ones who could not attend the tournament. 

“To be able to be out here and play Riviera today was tremendous,” he said, “and to be lucky enough to win and play for another couple of days is just the icing on top of it.”

Brennan, a sophomore from Leesburg, Virginia, dominated the one-day, 18-hole tournament, triumphing over 16 other competitors in the Collegiate Showcase’s largest field to date. 

Later this week, he will tee off alongside some of the best golfers in the world, a rare opportunity for a college-aged player. But Mike Antolini, vice president of championships at the TGR Foundation — Tiger Woods’ charity — explained that is what the competition is all about.

Brennan Genesis Invitational
Michael Brennan revels in his Genesis Invitational Collegiate Showcase victory at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles on Monday. The Virginia native credits his father for introducing him to the game of golf. (Alyssa Haduck/Medill Reports)

“This is a star-studded field on the PGA Tour,” Antonlini said. “It’s a marquee event. The experience [of] not only competing at the showcase, but then for that one winner competing in the Genesis Invitational, is really going to provide, I would say, years’ worth of experience in a week.” 

Woods and his TGR Foundation have managed the Genesis Invitational and its Collegiate Showcase since 2017, paving the way for golf’s brightest young stars to rise through the tour’s ranks. In fact, Scottie Scheffler, who placed first in last week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, won the showcase in 2018, and Sahith Theegala, who finished in a three-way tie for third at the same event, won the showcase the year before Scheffler. Both players will return to the Genesis Invitational this year.  

In addition to young players, the Collegiate Showcase and the Genesis Invitational also have made it a priority to include golfers from underrepresented communities in its events through the Pathway Player and Charlie Sifford exemptions. 

“It’s great for guys that might not have always had opportunities like this to really be able to come out, play with the best amateurs in the world, play with the best professionals in the world and have that spotlight on them,” said Ethan Mangum, this year’s Collegiate Showcase Pathway Player.

Mangum Genesis Invitational
2022 Genesis Invitational Collegiate Showcase Pathway Player Ethan Mangum (right) surveys the ninth hole at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles on Monday. The College of William & Mary graduate student cites golf greats Tiger Woods and Lee Elder as two of his favorite players. (Alyssa Haduck/Medill Reports)

Because philanthropy is a foundation of the Genesis Invitational, the opportunities it generates extend far beyond the game. For 25 years, the TGR Foundation has brought educational support and career training to more than 2 million students from underserved communities, a mission made possible by the tournament.

“With the Genesis Invitational, yes, we’re changing lives inside the ropes with the champion on Sunday, but more so, we’re impacting lives outside the ropes,” Antolini said. “It’s pretty special when you can take a global sporting event, but at its heart, really make an impact in the local community.”

As spectators stroll the Riviera course during the invitational this weekend, they will see several signs featuring the stories of students supported by the TGR Foundation. The posts serve as a constant reminder to all that anyone can achieve excellence, if given the opportunity.  

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Alyssa Haduck is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can follow her on Twitter at @Alyssa_Haduck.