The John Shippen Memorial Golf Foundation – is dedicated to commemorating the historical significance John Matthew Shippen, the first American born and the first African American golf professional to participate in an US Open in 1896, as well as the Shady Rest Golf and Country Club (presently The Scotch Hills Country Club); located in Scotch Plains, NJ. John Shippen was the club’s long time golf professional and greens’ supervisor. The Foundation awards annually scholarships to area high school graduates who have demonstrated academic prowess and an interest and skill in golf. The Foundation also underwrites and supports the John Shippen Youth Golf Academy (JSYGA), underwriting participation in youth PGA/USGA golf tournaments within NJ as well as the JSYGA annual youth golf tournament.
WHO WE ARE
Thurman P. Simmons, Sr.
Chair, The John Shippen
Memorial Golf Foundation
Ruby Lee Simmons
Vice Chair, The John Shippen
Memorial Golf Foundation
Thurman P. Simmons, Jr.
Karen Denise Simmons
Rose Harper Elder - CEO, The Glass Ceiling
Thurman & Ruby have been an instrumental key in the birth of The John Shippen Memorial Golf Committee in 1991. Thurman led the initiative to form a 501(3)c Foundation in 1996 becoming its Chairman with Ruby as Co-Chair/Scholarship Chair. As a history buff, Thurman knew that John Matthew Shippen, Jr. and the Shady RestGolf and Country Club was a gem, right here in Scotch Plains as John Matthew Shippen, Jr., was the first American and the first African American to play in a USGA tournament in 18 The John Shippen Memorial Golf Foundation was incorporated as a 501c non-profit Foundation in 1996 with Thurman Simmons, sr. as its chairman. The Foundation was established to commemorate the historical significance of the Shady Rest Golf & Country Club and African American, John Shippen, the club’s long time professional and greens supervisor and to develop and institute minority youth interest in golf.
The Foundation initiated and completed a number of projects including the production of a television documentary for PBA “Images in Black & White” produced by Cowen Media for ESPN; the commissioning of an oil painting of John Matthew Shippen by Don Miller which has been exhibited at the USGA Headquarters in Far Hills, NJ, production of a segment on the History Detective-Episode 212; and the restoration and maintenance of John Shippen’s grave site in Linden, NJ. (funds were raised by the Foundation to place an appropriate tombstone on John Shippen’s gravesite).
The success of the Shippen Foundation has paralleled the explosion of interest in minority participation in the sport of golf. Developing and increasing minority youth interest in golf has been one of the cornerstones of the Shippen movement. The first significant event initiated by the Shippen Foundation was a minority youth golf clinic conducted at Scotch Hills Country Club by noted senior tour professional, Lee Elder in 1991. This was followed by another minority youth golf clinic in 1992 conducted by Renee Powell, the first African American woman to participate regularly on the LPGA Tour. The Foundation continued to coordinate a series of golf clinics for minority youth under the experience tutelage of the PGA professional at Scotch Hills, i.e., the John Shippen Youth Scramble; where minority children had the opportunity to play with certified PGA professionals at Scotch Hills.
The John Shippen Memorial Golf Foundation under its Chairman, Thurman P. Simmons, and its Vo-Chair/Scholarship Chair, Ruby L. Simmons continues to promote the historical significance of John Shippen’s contribution to golf and to continue its scholarship program. 96 and the Shady Rest Golf and Country Club was the first African American golf and country club in the nation. In 1924, Shippen became the golf pro and greens keeper at Shady Rest. He remained at Shady Rest until his retirement in 1960. He died in 1968 in a nursing home in Newark, NJ and buried in an unmark grade in Rosedale Cemetery, Linden, NJ. Thurman diligently and patiently researched records to locate Shippen’s gravesite and the Foundation placed a fitting tombstone with the words “The First American and the First African American Golf Professional”.
Thurman continued his research on John Shippen, meeting with the USGA providing documented researched evidence to validate John Shippen’s contribution in the world of golf. A documentary, “A Place for Us” completed by Dr. Lawrence Londino historically highlights John Shippen as well as the Shady Rest Golf and Country Club (presently renamed Shady Rest at Scotch Hills Country Club). Thurman spearheaded the portrait of John Shippen commissioned by the late renowned artist, Don Miller. Thurman partnered and was featured in the Cowen Media, Inc. documentary “Images in Black & White” featuring unknown African Americans in sports which aired on ESPN in 2004. Thurman was gifted a putter crafted by John Shippen. Being curious about the putter, he contacted the “History Detectives” and together they researched the history of the putter validating that John Shippen had indeed crafted the putter. A documentary was aired on the “History Detectives”, a cable station.