Aaron Beverly got to see what the PGA Tour is all about when he spent the week caddying for Sahith Theegala in September of 2020 at the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa.
Beverly did his part, helping Theegala navigate the North Course, which presents major challenges with its narrow fairways and greens that are known for their slope, speed, and breaks. Theegala went low in the third round, firing a 64, and tied for 14th place, finishing the event at 15-under.
The big take-away for Beverly was telling himself that he is very capable of stepping on that big of a stage and playing alongside the best players, hitting quality shots and holding his own.
“Just watching how they played the course, the kind of shots that they hit, it was really kind of eye-opening to me, because they weren’t hitting shots that I don’t hit or that I don’t have the capability of hitting,” said Beverly. “It was really, really motivating to see, because, at that moment in time, it was, OK, you know, what, I know I can do that. I’ve seen it now. I know I can execute just like they can execute.
“It definitely gave me added confidence, seeing it, knowing that I’m just as capable as the guys that are on Tour.”
Thanks to Tiger Woods, the tournament host, and a 15-time major champion, Beverly will step inside the ropes as he will make his PGA Tour debut at The Genesis Invitational, Feb. 17-20 at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, CA. The event has a $12 million purse. In an announcement on the tournament’s website, genesisinvitational.com, on Jan. 18, Woods announced Beverly, who is from Sacramento, as the recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption into the 2022 Genesis Invitational. The field consists of 120 players.
“Awarded annually since 2009, the Sifford exemption represents the advancement of diversity in the game of golf,” according to the announcement, at genesisinvitational.com.
Beverly has played as a professional in PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latinoamerica, and Advocates Professional Golf Association events. In addition to his work as an assistant golf professional at Valley Hi Country Club in Elk Grove and an assistant coach for the Sacramento State men’s golf team, he plays mini-tour golf on the Golden State Tour.
Beverly won the APGA Tour Farmers Insurance Fall Series Finale at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles on November 9. He earned $10,000 after shooting rounds of 68 and 70 for a 4-under-par 138 total and capturing the title by a three-shot margin over Ryan Alford and Landon Lyons.
It marked Beverly’s first APGA Tour victory. The APGA Tour, according to the PGA Tour’s website, www.pgatour.com, was founded in 2010 “with the mission to bring greater diversity to the game of golf by hosting and operating professional golf tournaments, player development programs, mentoring programs, and introducing the game to inner-city young people.”
According to the announcement, an exemption has been given to a golfer representing a minority background to play in the annual PGA Tour event at Riviera since 2009.
The exemption was re-named in 2017 to honor the memory of Charlie Sifford, the first African American player to play on the PGA Tour, the announcement said.
“I’m looking forward to welcoming Aaron Beverly to The Genesis Invitational as the 2022 Sifford Exemption,” Woods, the winner of 82 PGA Tour events, said in the report at genesisinvitational.com. “Like me, Aaron learned the game from his dad. I know Charlie Sifford would be proud of Aaron as he makes his PGA Tour debut at Riviera next month.”
Previous exemption recipients, according to the announcement, include Vincent Johnson (2009), Joshua Wooding (2010), Joseph Bramlett (2011 and 2020), Andy Walker (2012), Jeremiah Wooding (2013), Harold Varner III (2014), Carlos Sainz, Jr. (2015), J.J. Spaun (2016), Kevin M. Hall (2017), Sacramento’s Cameron Champ (2018), Tim O’Neal (2019) and Willie Mack III (2021).
“It’s definitely something I’m very grateful for, to have the opportunity to play in this event,” said Beverly, 27. “It was a blessing and it came as a shock, but in the best way possible, to kind of wake up and be headed to the gym in the morning and see Tiger Woods’ Tweet that has my name in it. That was a very surreal moment.
“It’s really an honor to play. To have the exemption be named after Charlie Sifford, the first African American to play on the PGA Tour and have his PGA Tour card, that means a lot. Without Charlie Sifford, none of us have the opportunity to play, so it’s really an honor to be playing in his memory. It’s something I don’t take lightly. Very appreciative to have that chance.”
There were also announcements on Twitter and by the Northern California Golf Association and Sacramento State Athletics.
Woods announced it on Twitter, @TigerWoods.
The APGA Tour had Woods’ announcement on Twitter, @APGA_Tour, with “Congratulations, Aaron!”
The NCGA had an announcement on its blog, in a report, at blog.ncga.org. Sacramento State had a story on its website, at www.hornetsports.com. Beverly played his college golf at Sacramento State and was named to the All-Decade Team (2010-2020).
“Receiving the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption and having the opportunity to play in The Genesis Invitational is a true honor and the opportunity of a lifetime,” Beverly said in the announcement, at genesisinvitational.com. “This is the moment all my hard work and dedication has been preparing me for and I look forward to competing at Riviera.” Beverly will attend a media day for The Genesis Invitational and plans to play Riviera Country Club that same day. He will also play additional practice rounds at Riviera prior to the tournament.
“I’ll get experience on the course, which is definitely needed,” he said.
Playing in a PGA Tour event is something Beverly has been working toward and striving to do for years and years.
“I’ve had this dream of playing on Tour and playing against the best players in the world,” he said. “My dad (Ron Beverly) and I talked about it every day, whenever we practice, that this was the goal. So it’s a moment I feel that I’ve prepared my entire life for and now that it’s finally here, just trying to embrace it.”
“But at the end of the day to me, it’s still just golf. The shots themselves are the same shot. If it’s 120 to the pin at Silverado, it’s the same at Riviera. So that aspect of it, I’m just trying to keep it kind of as simple as possible. Although the stage is different, at the end of the day, it’s still just a game and it’s just golf.” He will stick to his daily routine as he prepares for The Genesis Invitational – getting his workout in early at the gym and then practicing and playing later in the day.
“I’m trying to keep things as normal as possible,” he pointed out.
Beverly said he learned a lot by watching Theegala, a three-time All-American at Pepperdine University who turned professional in 2020, that week at Silverado during the Safeway Open. Theegala was named as the winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award in 2020, as the top college player in the country.
Beverly also learned from watching others in the field – the way players go about preparing on a daily basis.
“I will say the one really good thing that Sahith did was he didn’t over-practice or over-stress about anything. He stuck to his routine and what he’s always done, to get himself ready for a tournament and the fact that it was on a bigger stage didn’t bother him or change anything. So that’s one thing I’m going to take away for sure,” he said.
Beverly will play in the APGA Tour’s Farmers Invitational, at Torrey Pines North and South, on Jan. 29 and 30, in La Jolla, CA. According to its website, www.apgatour.org, the APGA Tour, established in 2010, “is a non-profit organization with the mission to prepare African Americans and other minority golfers to compete and win at the highest level of professional golf, both on tour and in the golf industry. This will be accomplished through professional tournaments, career development, and mentoring sessions.”
Zack Sims of Napa will caddie for Beverly at The Genesis Invitational. The two worked together in the golf department at Silverado. Sims is a 2012 Napa High School graduate who played on golf teams at Santa Rosa Junior College and Holy Names University in Oakland. Sims was selected to All-Big 8 Conference, All-Northern California, and All-State teams at Santa Rosa. He was selected to the Division II PING All-West Regional team by the Golf Coaches Association of America for Holy Names.
Sims was there, providing support when Beverly’s father, Ron Beverly, passed away in September of 2019 due to an illness. Sims caddied for Beverly at the Safeway Open pro-am at Silverado in 2019 shortly after Ron Beverly passed away.
“Obviously, my emotions were kind of all over the place at the time,” said Aaron Beverly. “Zack knew what was going on. He caddied that day, and for the rest of my life, I’ll forever be grateful. Because for five hours on that golf course, he was able to make me laugh and make me kind of forget about the sorrow of my dad’s passing. He’s an amazing person and one of my best friends. I’ll forever be appreciative of him for that moment and everything he’s meant to me.”
There is so much that Aaron Beverly learned about golf from his dad, who was also a longtime football coach. He was the head coach at Vanden High School in Fairfield and Solano Community College in Fairfield. Ron Beverly was Aaron’s coach and the one who got Aaron started in the game.
“It’s bittersweet that I can’t share it with him in person. I know he would be my biggest supporter. And I know he’d also be pushing me to make sure I’m prepared and to do well in the moment,” he said.
In the announcement about being the recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption, at genesisinvitational.com, Beverly said: “My father was not only my coach but my best friend, mentor, and biggest supporter. I know there would be no one more excited and proud of me than him. He’ll be looking over me all week and smiling watching me play against the best players in the world.”
High school, college years
Beverly is from Fairfield and graduated in 2012 from Armijo High School, where he was the Monticello Empire League co-Player of the Year and a three-time All-Monticello Empire League selection. He tied for medalist honors in 2012 at the CIF Northern California Championships.
He is a 2017 Sacramento State graduate who had all kinds of success for the Hornets, as he won three titles and was the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year his junior and senior seasons.
He was twice named All-Big Sky first-team and was Big Sky All-Academic all four years.
He was named to the PING Division I All-West Region Team by the Golf Coaches Association of America. According to www.hornetsports.com, Beverly had 10 top-three finishes during his collegiate career.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor, and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.
Read more about Aaron Beverly here!