Justin Thomas is most often talked about for what he does on the golf course, but should be celebrated for what he did off of it last week at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Thomas met up with career mini-tour golfer Michael Visacki, who got into the tournament on a sponsor invite, and handed him a check for an undisclosed sum of money to continue chasing his pro golf dreams. Visacki became famous in golf circles after he qualified for the Valspar Championship, called his dad and wept over this sliver of success in an industry structured to give you so very few of them. It was his first PGA Tour start.
Visacki, who three months ago had just one OWGR-qualifying start (at the KC Golf Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018 where he finished T27) to go along with several years of mini-tour experience, missed the cut at Valspar, but his sweet story got him an invitation into Colonial as well. He shot 77-72 over two rounds in Fort Worth, Texas, but that’s not going to be his takeaway from the week after what the No. 2 player in the world did for him.
Visacki said early in the week that he and Thomas were slated to play a practice round together, which Thomas arranged.
“He messaged me last week and he said, ‘Hey, bud, do you want to come have a practice round on Tuesday,'” Visacki said. “I was like, ‘Double yes, please.’ I’ve been here since Friday so I’ve gotten to see the course a couple times. It’s going to be truly amazing teeing it up with J.T. and whoever wants to join us.”
For more on Michael Visacki follow and listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Visacki’s story is a good one, no matter where it goes from here. He discussed at the Valspar just how financially taxing it is to try and get off the mini-tours and onto the Korn Ferry Tour and how much his parents have support his dream along the way.
“It’s extremely hard,” Visacki said. “Sometimes entry fees are $400-$600, and if you don’t win or come second, I mean you barely break even. Then it’s not like every week is a free entry fee that we’re just playing for a prize. Like if you miss two or three cuts and each cut, each tournament costs you $500 then in two, three weeks you’re down $1,500 just in entry fee, not alone practicing, having to worry about paying rent, phone bill, electricity, gas, hopefully the car’s not going to break down.
“Even with all my success, it’s still very, very, very hard to make a living. If I was having to pay rent I would probably still wouldn’t be able to play professional golf as much as I’ve won in the past.”
The kicker to the J.T. thing from last week at Colonial was that Visacki’s father, also named Mike, who Visacki has mentioned often as both an emotional and financial supporter, was there to see a bit of kindness from one of the great players of this generation to his son, who’s simply trying to forge any kind of path in the professional golf world.
I agree with Ben Coley that the best part of the whole video was a throwaway at the very end after J.T. walked away. Following the cutting of that check and the kindness of handing it to him, he heads off to his T40 finish on the weekend and whatever else 2021 holds for him (likely more wins and more riches). But not before he stops for a beat, turns around and voices the rare thing he and Visacki (and all professional golfers) share — “Keep chasing this year.” That’s maybe even more valuable encouragement than whatever he provided financially.