Willie Mack III is headed to the Mexican resort of Mayakoba on a sponsor’s exemption, the final act of what has been a memorable year.
He measures his success more in making two cuts on the PGA Tour than the two tournaments he won on the Advocates Pro Golf Association, a tour of 36-hole events that endeavors to prepare minorities for golf.
“Making those cuts,” Mack said Monday evening before boarding his flight to Cozumel. “That’s the level I want to be at. Knowing I can at least make some cuts out there gives you a little bit of confidence. Hopefully, I can play well this week and keep it going.”
His five appearances on the PGA Tour began at Torrey Pines when he took over a spot in the field for APGA Tour players when his friend Kamaiu Johnson had a positive COVID-19 test. He also received the Charlie Sifford Memorial exemption to the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, and while he was gutted to miss the cut after opening with a 70, the weekend featured an hourlong lunch with Tiger Woods.
“I was nervous before I met him, but we sat down and just started talking,” Mack said.
He made the cut in the Rocket Mortgage Classic in his home state of Michigan and in the John Deere Classic. That stands out more to Mack than his dominant year on the APGA Tour.
His two victories included a six-shot win in the Tour Championship at the TPC Sugarloaf and the Billy Horschel Invitational at the TPC Sawgrass, which came with a $25,000 prize.
He built relationships along the way, specifically with Farmers Insurance, whose sponsorship helps with travel and other costs. He also has a friend in Horschel, who came out to watch him practice last week; each works with instructor Todd Anderson.
But not all the memories were happy. Mack is still stung by coming up two shots short of getting through the second stage of Korn Ferry Tour qualifying, which would have assured him some status for next year. All is not lost.
A player who has been grinding on the mini-tours for a decade (he has won 66 times), who once slept in his car when he was running low on cash and who received as much support as he could from a single father in Michigan hasn’t lost hope.
“I wish I would have gotten through Q-school, but it’s not the only way to get on tour,” he said.