Wisconsin golf professional Mark Wilson from Menomonee Falls started 2012 the same way he did 2011. This year he won the Humana Challenge to start the year. Jerry Slaske, our golf editor, interviewed the Menomonee Falls native last year and we're repeating his informative column this month.
Wisconsin’s Wilson making a mark on PGA Tour
By JERRY SLASKE
KeyMilwaukee.com Golf Editor
MARK WILSON BEGAN 2011 with two PGA Tour wins: the Sony Open in Hawaii and the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Through the John Deere Classic (July 7-10), he has two more top-10 finishes and has earned more than $2.7 million.
Currently in sixth place on the FedExCup points list, the 36-year-old golfer is a native of Menomonee Falls just northwest of Milwaukee and is the latest Wisconsin golfer to rise to the top of the professional ranks.
KEY Milwaukee recently caught up with Wilson to get his thoughts on learning the game on Milwaukee-area courses, playing the tour, putting golf in perspective and a host of other subjects.
(Courses that are open to the public are indicated by phone number and Web site.)
KEY: When you were growing up and living here in the Milwaukee area, what were your favorite courses to play?
Wilson: Oconomowoc Golf Club (private), Milwaukee Country Club (private), Nagawaukee (262-367-2153 www.golfwaukeshacounty.com).
KEY: What was your lowest round in Wisconsin and on what course?
Wilson: Not sure in a tournament, but I do remember shooting a 7 under 63 at Oconomowoc Golf Club a few years ago.
KEY: Where did you win the 2001 Wisconsin Open?
Wilson: Blackwolf Run Meadows Valleys Course (americanclubresort.com/golf, 800-344-2838),
probably my best golf performance in a tournament in Wisconsin.
KEY: What are your favorite types of courses?
Wilson: Anything designed a long time ago. I love Donald Ross, Alistair Mackenzie style courses. I like to have to think about where to land your ball on the green and then have it hit the right slopes to go near the hole.
KEY: After traveling across the country, how does Wisconsin stack up against other states when it comes to golf?
Wilson: Now that the four courses have been added to the Kohler area by Mr. Herb Kohler, Wisconsin has all types and ranks pretty high up in my book.
KEY: Is golf course design is in your future?
Wilson: I hope so. I loved making up golf courses when I was in elementary school in my notebooks.
KEY: Do you still come back to Milwaukee to play with friends or family? Or is social golf a thing of the past?
Wilson: I love playing a round with my dad when I have a chance, but I don't play much golf when I am home. I try to get two rounds I n during an off week. If our schedules coincide, I like to play with fellow Wisconsin pros, Andy Podolak (Fire Ridge Golf Club, 262- 375-2252, www.fireridgegc.com) or David Roesch. Golf with them is social, but I can't just play golf and not care where my ball is going. I am always preparing for my next tournament whenever I’m on a golf course.
KEY: What's your most memorable golf moment?
Wilson: I would have to go back to my back nine during the Wisconsin high school championships, my freshman year at Fox Valley Golf Club (private) in Appleton. I was only 14,
but rolled in putts from everywhere and shot 7 under par on the second nine to win.
KEY: Would you like to see a tour event back in Milwaukee? Is anything happening on that front?
Wilson: I haven't heard of anything yet, but that would be great for it to return. I am glad that majors and the Ryder Cup are going to be in Wisconsin.
KEY: Who got you into golf? When did you realize you had what it takes to be on the tour?
Wilson: My dad started me at age 2. When I was playing college (University of North Carolina) golf, I decided to at least turn pro after I graduated.
KEY: What are best, worst parts of being a PGA player?
Wilson: I get to play the best golf courses in the world in their best shape of the year. The worst part is that it is really difficult to get rid of tan lines on my upper body.
KEY: Who are some of the guys on tour you chum around with? Are you friends with PGA pros from Wisconsin like Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly, J.P. Hayes, or Skip Kendall?
Wilson: I hang out most with guys who are in a similar life situation as myself, meaning they are married with small children. So I hang out with Tag Ridings, Ben Crane, Zach Johnson and Jonathan Byrd. Steve, JP, Jerry and Skip have all been like big brothers.
KEY: Of your four wins on tour, which gives you the greatest satisfaction?
Wilson: Probably the first one since it really put me on the map and drove my own thinking of myself as a player who barely keeps his card on tour every year to one who can contend on any given week. That gave me a lot of confidence in myself.
KEY: Are your wife and two kids golfers? Do they travel with you?
Wilson: My wife has the prettiest golf swing you'll ever see but not much power. She shoots around 100, but if a household chore is put on the line as the bet, then she will really bring her game. My boys are only 1- and 3-years-old so they are just getting started. They travel with me 90% of the time now, but that will change when the oldest gets into kindergarten in a couple years.
KEY: Is your caddie from Wisconsin?
Wilson: Chris Jones is from New Jersey but moved to Reno, NV in his late teens to chase his dream of snowboarding. He needed something to do in the summers so he discovered golf. He loved it so much he wanted to become a caddie and got his first chance with Dicky Pride in 2002. I hired him in 2006 and we have been together ever since.
KEY: What's your ultimate goal in golf?
Wilson: I truly believe that God has given me my talent and it is my responsibility to use that talent to influence others and ultimately, I want to bring others to know Jesus Christ like I do. I hope to be known as a Christian who played golf for a living.
KEY: What other sports or pastimes or hobbies do you like?
Wilson: I loved basketball growing up. I was an enormous Milwaukee Bucks fan when I was in elementary school. I lived and died by the Bucks. I played all the way through my sophomore year on the Wisconsin Lutheran High School team but stopped as I saw my skills being bypassed by others. Most of my free time now is spent watching my two boys grow up and play hard.
KEY: Having won the Ben Hogan Award, any advice for student golfers? And why did you attend the University of North Carolina?
Wilson: There are sacrifices that go along with succeeding both in the classroom and in sports. There is time to have fun and be a teenager but always keep your eye on the ultimate prize. As for college, I had always wanted to go south to develop my game which I still feel is important at the collegiate level. UNC had great academics and a top 20 golf program. It was a no-brainer.
KEY: How and why did you get involved in Milwaukee-based Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC)?
Wilson: My manager at the time, Ed Erkmanis, came up with the idea of "Making a Mark Fore MACC" where I donate a certain amount of earnings for each tournament I play in. I loved the idea since I always dreamed of sinking a 3-point shot as a Milwaukee Buck and having $50 donated to the MACC FUND. Once I stopped growing at 5'8" and that dream died, I'm glad Ed thought of a more realistic way for me to benefit the MACC FUND.
KEY: Why do you currently reside in Elmhurst, Ill. and not someplace warm?
Wilson: We are traveling 30 weeks a year so when I am not playing a tournament I much prefer being close to family and friends. Besides, we usually leave in early January every year to play a lot of tournaments, missing most of the blizzards in the Midwest. Elmhurst is situated in between both Chicago airports and is a great place to raise a family. My wife, Amy, grew up in the Chicagoland area.
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