January 21, 2011
PGA Tour Pro Mark Wilson had a bit of a down year in 2006. He ended up in 156th place on the money list, well below the 125th place required to ensure his Tour playing status for the next year.
Nonetheless, Wilson’s $444,300 or so in earnings was a nice piece of change. So when the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer Fund asked the Wisconsin native to contribute, the money was there.
Wilson’s $30,000 contribution stunned the organization, and has not been matched since by any other contributor.
Based on Wilson’s playing history since he made that donation, I like to think that karma is real, and there are occasional rewards here on earth for folks like him for the good that they do.
Wilson went on to retain his PGA Tour playing privileges in the 2006 Qualifying event. He has since gone on to win three PGA Tournaments, in 2007, 2009, and most recently last week in the Sony Open in Hawai’i.
Who says nice guys finish last?
That said, Wilson is one of the relatively anonymous PGA Tour pros, whose performances on the course are not often followed by thousands of devoted fans—unless he’s in a pairing with one of the matinee idols of this era.
This year’s media buzz about the PGA Tour, for example, has been split between interest in the 20-something young guns, such as Rickey Fowler, and whether some of the veterans like Vijay Singh or John Daley will be returning to the winner’s circle.
Wilson is one of the current 30-somethings that don’t seem to generate any notoriety, good or bad, at least by comparison.
That’s a shame, because Wilson’s steady play is a great example for the rest of us, who watch the pros in hopes of picking up a useful hint or two for our own games.
Wilson is allegedly one of the short hitters on the Tour, managing a modest 289 yards off the tee. However, he’s also one of the more accurate drivers, with an average of 74% of his tee shots ending up in the fairways. If you know that the Waialae Course for the Sony Open is one of the tighter layouts the pros face each year, that number is even more impressive. He’s also very good around the greens, as shown by a chip-in birdie in his last round at the Sony.
The weather conspired against Wilson gaining any major new publicity boost from his latest win, at least while the tournament was underway. Thanks to a rainout on the first day, Wilson and the others were forced to play 36 holes on the last day. He only had an eight-minute cushion between the end of his third round and the start time for his final 18 holes.
The tight schedule also meant there would be no re-juggling of the starting times for the last round. It’s hard to build up any TV excitement under those conditions.
These challenges didn’t faze Wilson, however. He finished the third round one stroke ahead of everyone else, and finished two strokes ahead in first place with a 16-under total.
Wilson’s post-round interview with the Golf Channel showed that he enjoyed his win immensely, not least of which because the victory qualified him for the Masters Tournament this spring. When he had his prior wins, Masters Tournament rules did not provide this bonus.
Wilson also said the victory would open up his schedule opportunities for the rest of the year, given that he was running out his current two-year exemption for his 2009 victory.
He’s still involved with the Cancer Fund, too. Wilson makes a donation for every tournament cut he makes, and boosts the pot more when he makes a top-30 finish.
Wilson may not make the Nielsen ratings jump whenever he’s onscreen, but with his charity work, I think he’s certainly a star.