Bethune-Cookman Willie Mack

Willie Mack III cashes in at PGA’s Rocket Mortgage Classic

Former Bethune-Cookman golfer Willie Mack III cashes his first Tour check playing in his home state at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.

Willie Mack III, a former standout golfer at Bethune-Cookman, made his first PGA Tour cut on Friday and cashed his first Tour check Sunday. Mack finished in a tie for 71st at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.

Mack brought home $15,075 after shooting 68-73-72-71 to finish at 4-under-par 284 and tie with Jimmy Walker and Bo Van Pelt over the Detroit Golf Club track. He finished ahead of four others including 45-time winner and 2021 PGA champion Phil Mickelson (-3).

The 32-year-old Flint, Mich. native, got into the event ninety miles from his hometown on a sponsor’s exemption. It was his third PGA Tour start of the season. Former Jackson State golfer Tim O’Neal was also in the field after winning the John Shippen Invitational earlier in the week. O’Neal missed Friday’s cut after shooting +3, 74-73–147 over the first two days.

Grinding pays off for Willie Mack III

Mack has been grinding his way up the pro golf ladder and spent a year and a half living in his car. The car caught fire and exploded in 2018 with Mack only able to save his golf clubs.

Despite that setback, a year later he was named the Advocates Professional Golf Association (APGA) Tour’s player of the year. The APGA is a tour with a mission to provide opportunities for African Americans and other minorities to compete and win at the highest levels of pro golf. Mack has been a prolific winner, taking titles in some 60 mini-tour events.

Keeping it in play

For the week, playing in front of a host of family and friends, Mack played well. His 15 birdies tied him for 49th in the field. His 11 bogeys were 11th. No double or triple bogeys were on his card. Off the tee he averaged 273.1 yards with driving accuracy at 71.43% and hitting 72.22% of greens in regulation.

Mack played the par-4 holes even par for the week. He was 1-under on par-3s and 3-under on the par-5s. His 4 ½-foot par putt on his 18th and final hole Friday allowed him to make the cut on the number. He had missed the cut in his two previous starts at The Genesis Invitational and the Farmer’s Insurance Open.

Cam Davis won the Rocket Mortgage on the fifth hole of sudden death in a three-man playoff with Troy Merritt and Joaquin Niemann.  

Looking forward to more opportunities

Wayne Birch, who played at Southern and caddies for Merritt, returned to the course after Merritt finished on Friday to root for Mack as he attempted to make the cut. He was ecstatic about Mack’s accomplishment.

“I probably was more nervous than he (Mack) was,” Birch said after watching Mack sink the short putt for par on his final hole Friday. “In the Black community in golf, we all knew, all of us who played at a high level, that Willie is next up. This is so big.”

Mack will next tee it up in this week’s PGA John Deere Classic, July 7-11 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois.

“I want to tee it up again,” Mack said after his final round in Detroit. “Luckily, I got into John Deere next week, so hopefully I can take this momentum and play well next week.”

Willie Mack III cashes in at PGA’s Rocket Mortgage Classic
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