Justin Thomas bankrolls viral Michael Visacki’s PGA TOUR dream
4 Min Read
Written by Ben Everill @BEverillGolfbet
Justin Thomas on his generosity towards Mike Visacki before the Memorial
DUBLIN, Ohio – Former FedExCup champion Justin Thomas felt a jolt of joy and felt compelled to pay it forward.
Like millions of others Thomas saw Michael Visacki’s reaction to Monday qualification at the Valspar Championship earlier this season and was sparked by the emotion of it all as the mini-tour battler broke down while relaying his success to his parents.
As Visacki’s story of hardships during his grind towards a PGA TOUR dream surfaced, Thomas reflected on some of his own tough moments from early 2021 and got a timely dose of perspective.
The world No. 2 felt compelled to help Visacki in any way he could. That included reaching out to play practice rounds and also to help financially. The latter was not meant to be public, but a video surfaced at last week’s Charles Schwab Challenge where the two interacted after a check for an undisclosed sum was handed over.
“I was a little irritated that it got out. I didn't really want it to. That wasn't the intention of it. I just saw the video of Mike calling his dad after he Monday’ed in Valspar, and in a day and age where it seems like only anything in the media is negative…, I just felt it was so refreshing and great to see and how genuine his excitement and emotions were,” Thomas said ahead of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
“It was great because I haven't been in a great place, both mentally and on the golf course…, and I felt joy out of seeing his joy and it just kind of totally made me forget about what's going on in my golfing life and sometimes puts things in perspective that obviously we're all out here to play golf and we're all out here to try to win a lot of golf tournaments, but changing people's lives and helping people who are less fortunate than you is sometimes, you know, more important than that.”
Thomas grew up in a golfing family where his grandfather and father were successful PGA professionals. He didn’t need to worry about where his next tournament fee would come from, unlike Visacki. But yet it still resonated strongly.
“For some reason it hit home to me and it just was like, man… this is a dude who's been grinding for a long time and there's a lot of people, not just him, that are doing that, but I just wanted to help in a little way,” Thomas added.
“And… I don't know if it's true or not… I heard that someone on the board of Charles Schwab heard about what I did and then wanted to sponsor him and take care of him and his expenses and everything throughout the rest of the year or however long it is. That's what I'm most happy about, the fact that he is able to now take advantage of more opportunities because of just something little that I did.”
Visacki’s story is one of many near misses as he’s been trying to find his way on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR since turning pro in 2014. It’s a story of growing up without means but having two supportive parents helping him chase his dream well past the point others let them die. It was why Visacki figured his phone call resonated with so many people as it spread like wildfire.
“Just a lot of people give up on their dreams, probably because they can't afford it,” Visacki said in a press conference prior to his first start at the Valspar Championship. “But I've been lucky enough to be with my parents and been able to help me out sometimes to keep living it.”
Thomas stressed his help was not purely financial. He hoped the new friendship would work both ways into the future.
“I want to be helpful more than just money. I told him… if you ever want advice, if you ever want to pick my brain, you ever just want to talk, I'm here for you,” Thomas added. “I'm happy to help. I was very fortunate to have some great mentors and people willing to help me growing up and if it's a difference of him playing on mini tours or getting his Korn Ferry card the next year, then that means more to me than any amount of money I could ever give him or anybody.
The PGA TOUR is unique to most major sports leagues given on many given weeks there are spots in the fields available to Monday qualifiers. While it is a tough road to get through many players have had success via this route – Patrick Reed was a Monday star in 2012 getting through six times and plying his trade towards status from there.
“It's great. It's really hard to explain to someone that's not in golf or doesn't understand golf, the opportunity that you could go out and Monday qualify,” Thomas mused.
“Someone has the chance to potentially play well, have the week of their life and change their life forever… the fact that it is possible in itself, I think is very, very unique and just adds to the list of many things as to why golf is pretty special.”