Willie Mack III once lived out of his car while dreaming of a chance to compete for a PGA title.
The African American star fired a sizzling, eight-under-par 64 to sprint away from the field and captured the Mastercard APGA Tour Championship presented by Lexus by six strokes Tuesday, capping a memorable seven-month stretch that has changed the trajectory of his career.
Final scores are available here.
The 32-year-old had five birdies on the back nine to separate himself from the field with a 65-64-129 and win the season-long Lexus Cup Point Standings title in addition to the prestigious season-end championship.
He pocketed a total of $27,500 in prize money, combining the tournament winner’s purse of $10,000 and the $17,500 bonus pool prize for performance over eight regular-season events.
The Lexus Cup Points title and Player of the Year designation are his third overall. Mack used the 1,000 Lexus Cup points in the championship event to climb from seventh place in the standings.
The Lexus Cup title also includes a full scholarship into Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying School in September at Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge in Winter Garden, Florida.
Mack works to advance a career that includes winning 11 college tournaments at Bethune-Cookman University and over 65 mini-tour titles. Mack also won the use of a Lexus for one year.
Former PGA TOUR Latinoamerica star Patrick Newcomb was only two strokes behind at the turn before Mack pulled away, leaving the Jacksonville, Florida, resident in second at nine-under 135.
Tim O’Neal of Savannah, Georgia, the 2020 Lexus Cup Player of the Year, shot 67-70-137 to tie for third with Aaron Beverly of Fairfield, California, who registered a 66-71-137. Landon Lyons of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, took fifth at three-under-par (69-70-139).
“Everything came together pretty well again today,” said Mack, now looking forward to some rest after a non-stop, six-month grind.
“Including the PGA TOUR and the Korn Ferry Tour, these are the biggest events I’ve played, so this would be one of the top stretches of my career, for sure. I’ve been able to play better with the opportunities that came along. Knowing I can play out there (on the PGA TOUR) helps my confidence.”
Mack’s rise to prominence began when he played in the PGA TOUR’S Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January as a sponsor exemption and continued at the Genesis Invitational, designated by Tiger Woods as the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption awarded annually to a top-tier minority player.
His following two PGA TOUR exemptions in July were stellar as he made the cut in both the Rocket Mortgage Classic (T-64) and the John Deere Classic (T-71), earning plaudits across the golf landscape.
He followed that up by winning the Billy Horschel APGA Tour Invitational at TPC Sawgrass on July 31 before heading to TPC Sugarloaf for the tour’s culminating regular-season competition.
He also played in two Korn Ferry Tour tournaments in building momentum toward the summertime surge.
A feature on Mack this year revealed that he attended PGA Tour Qualifying School several times without success.
However, he did qualify to play on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica circuit in 2018.
“But the prospect of spending a couple of thousand dollars to play in events there without the guarantee of a paycheck wasn’t feasible,” the report stated.
During his early mini-tour days, Mack began sleeping in his car or crashing on the couch at the home of friends to save money.
That wasn’t something he shared with many people until playing in his first PGA Tour event.
“My first year out, it was a good year, and then the second and third year was kind of a struggle, sleeping in and out of my car for a year and a half when I was down here in Florida,” he told a Michigan newspaper. “Those were some tough times.
Now, he has won the Mastercard APGA Tour Championship.
Marcus Byrd of Knoxville, Tennessee, finished second in the Lexus Cup Point Standings to win $5,000 with Ryan Alford of Shreveport, Louisiana third ($4,000), Newcomb fourth ($3,000), Lyons fifth ($2,000), and Kevin Hall of Cincinnati sixth ($1,000).
The Mastercard APGA Tour Championship was the 11th tournament of the landmark 2021 season, featuring a record 13-plus events and eight exemptions for APGA Tour players into PGA TOUR tournaments. TPC Sugarloaf is the sixth TPC property that has hosted the APGA Tour this year as part of its partnership with the PGA TOUR.
All activities were conducted under social-distancing and health/safety guidelines in conjunction with regional authorities.
The APGA Tour continues September 20-22, when the players will be heading to the Bluestone Country Club in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, for APGA Tour Valley Forge. The tournament marks the first time the APGA Tour will play in the Northeastern United States.