Duke grad competes for PGA Tour exemption

Quinn Riley reacts after a shot during the second round of the 2022 John Deere Classic golf tournament, at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. (Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo)

RALEIGH — Now two years into his professional career, Duke graduate and Raleigh-based golfer Quinn Riley is on the hunt to land his fourth PGA Tour start.

The 24-year-old competed at the Detroit Golf Club this past weekend in the John Shippen Men’s Invitational, a 36-hole stroke play event with a 14-player field of top pro and amateur Black golfers.


“The John Shippen Men’s Invitational provides a platform to showcase some of the best professional and amateur men’s Black golfers in the game, and we’re thrilled to grant the winner an exemption to the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic next month,” said Jason Langwell, executive director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. “This event not only celebrates golf’s storied legacy, but also champions a future where diversity and excellence thrive on the course.”

On Sunday afternoon, Shippen winner Willie Mack III came away with $13,200 and a sponsorship exemption into this weekend’s Rocket Mortgage Classic at the same location.

Although Riley fell short of the prize, it marked the third Shippen appearance for the 2023 Advocates Professional Golf Association (APGA) Tour Rookie of the Year and 2024 PGA Americas member.

After graduating from Duke, he has since played in three PGA Tour events: the 2022 John Deere Classic, 2022 Shriners Children’s Open, and 2023 Wells Fargo Championship).

Ahead of the Shippen tournament, Riley spoke to NSJ about how an early appreciation for Tiger Woods inspired him to pursue golf at a young age.

“I honestly got obsessed with it, just watching Tiger win. I started when I was like five,” Riley said. “He was going on a run, just winning everything — winning four, five, six times a year — and it became a pretty big deal, even if you weren’t a golfer. So that’s how I got really obsessed with golf as I was trying to be like him.”

By his high school days, Riley had become a three-time All State first-team selection at Ravenscroft High School in Raleigh.

As a Blue Devil golfer, he came into his own during his 2021-22 senior season where he had the third-highest scoring average on the team and competed in 11 tournaments across the campaign. Additionally, he led Duke in his first career ACC Championship with three consecutive rounds under par to place tied for 16th at four-under.

Knowing that golf was something he wanted to continue to pursue in a post-collegiate environment, he sensed that his final season in Durham would be important in determining his own confidence in playing professionally.

“It was kind of an exit plan, like it’s now or never. You had momentum heading into the senior year and now it was time to get it done,” Riley said. “I waited until the very last year of my college golf career to start playing up to the standard of where I wanted to be, and things that ended up just working out. So I couldn’t ask for better timing, but it just happens to work that way a lot.”

Fresh out of Duke, Riley initially earned status on the APGA Tour — a developmental tour for Black and other minority golfers — halfway through 2022 after finishing atop the Bridgestone APGA Collegiate Ranking.

Riley said he soon realized that the world of mini tour golf in the APGA was more of a “small-scale business” model than he had realized at first, especially compared to the PGA Tour environment where donors and sponsorships reigned supreme.

As of late, his golf journey has taken him to new locations and courses that he hasn’t seen or played at before, including a six-event Latin stint in the 2024 PGA Tour Americas campaign.

“That was a really cool experience, getting to play some pretty tough competition, travel all throughout South America and Mexico, and kind of see where my game was at.”

Referencing the swing mechanics of PGA Tour superstars like Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler, Riley said that he’s been working on his golf swing, hoping to adjust his placement to be able to hit the ball higher.

“I’ve been putting in the time the last year and a half to increase the peak height and the angle of descent on the golf ball because I just think it’s that important,” he added. “My natural tendency is to really rotate hard and deloft the club, but to hit it high, you can’t deloft the club. You’re having to change the way that you apply force on the grip — it keeps me up at night.”

The next APGA event is set for July 7-9 in Cincinnati, OH.