Q&A with Mikel Martinson
Get to know the former caddie who navigated Q-School to secure Korn Ferry Tour starts in 2020
January 16, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Mikel Martinson grew up in the small town of Throckmorton, Texas, and won the 2009 Texas State Open. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
After clutching up at Q-School, Mikel Martinson earned guaranteed starts on the Korn Ferry Tour for the first time in his professional career. At 35, and after recovering from a broken ankle earlier in the year, he spent the whole of 2019 staring at the lock screen on his phone that said ‘Korn Ferry Tour Finals.’
Mission accomplished. His new phone background was a photo of Sandals Emerald Bay GC – the host club of the first event of the year.
Although he missed the cut – and subsequently changed his phone’s background – being able to compete on the Korn Ferry Tour after a decade-plus of wondering where his place was in golf (including a stint as a caddie on the PGA TOUR and contemplating if golf was, truly, what he wanted to do with his life) he’s now got a more focused path.
Martinson started his professional career winning the Texas State Open in 2009 (etching his name alongside the likes of Lee Trevino, Jeff Maggert and Ben Crenshaw) before dabbling on mini-tours and having some brief appearances on both the Mackenzie Tour and PGA TOUR Latinoamerica.
But the easygoing Texan is now competing on the biggest stage in his career.
Martinson spent a few minutes with PGA TOUR Digital chatting about his journey to the Korn Ferry Tour, Texas barbecue, and what a perfect day looks like.
It's windy out there, folks. 😃😂 pic.twitter.com/mKQi6ba8mE— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) January 11, 2020
As the calendar changed into 2020, how did you feel about the year ahead – with some clarity – versus years past?
It was a weird year (last year). We had talked about me hurting myself earlier in the year (Note: Martinson broke his foot playing softball) and then I was just playing through a lot of stuff. Honestly my whole outlook on golf changed. Once that changed and I actually started believing in myself a lot more ... I didn’t feel different heading into Q-School than I had in the past; I just hadn’t got to Final Stage. It was more just belief in myself more than anything that helped me get through to Final Stage and play good there.
Having those guaranteed Korn Ferry Tour starts, what did that do for your mental outlook?
I’ve had conditional (status) on (PGA TOUR Latinoamerica), conditional (status) on (Mackenzie Tour) and it sucks, honestly. You don’t want to have to rely on doing Monday qualifiers to get in and see 300 guys play for five or six spots. It gets old and it beats you down. It feels awesome to know I have eight starts to go prove myself and play good golf. If I do that, everything takes care of itself.
At 35, what keeps you motivated?
Everything I’ve poured into it; all my family support, my friends, my sponsors. They keep telling me I’m good enough to make it one of these days (and) that’s more motivation than anything, just having the support I’ve had to keep pushing forward.
You’re from a very small town, Throckmorton, Texas, with a population of less than 1,000. Is it one of those one-stoplight towns?
There’s not even a stoplight. There is one blinking light (laughs). There’s not a Sonic, there’s no Wal-Mart. We take pride in having a couple little cafes but if you want to go grocery shopping … there are some convenience stores, but otherwise you’d have to go 30-45 minutes away to get groceries.
Lots of support though?
Everyone supports everybody; there are world-class people there. That’s what makes it so unique and so great. Everyone follows me and keeps up, even if it’s just through social media … Facebook or Instagram. It’s neat.
Five pros earn Final Stage berths via Mikel Martinson's 'timely' bogey
When did you decide golf was going to be the thing you’d try to pursue full-time?
I’ve always loved sports. Growing up, I played everything. Once I got to college, you know, I was from Throckmorton (laughs), so I didn’t have the big schools looking at me. I couldn’t go play at the big schools. I played two years at New Mexico Junior College and when I could start devoting my time to just golf that’s when I was like, ‘Hey, you were decent when you were playing every sport, so now that you’re just focused on golf, the sky is the limit,’ that’s what I’ve used as motivation as well.
And thinking you would have a chance in professional golf?
Early on, in 2009, I won the Texas State Open and I took a lot of pride in that. It’s a big state and there are a lot of really cool names on that trophy. It happened pretty early in my career as far as ‘after college.’ Right then I knew, after I shot 70-64-65-65, I was like, ‘You can play golf for a living.’ The names on that trophy meant more than anything. Coming right out of college, a $25,000 check at the Texas State Open went a long way, but the names were huge.
You caddied for some guys on the PGA TOUR (Brice Garnett, Peter Malnati, Bobby Gates, Josh Creel). When did that start and how?
I thought it was a really good opportunity to take a little time and look at the big picture. I was going to be out there with the best players in the world, watching them do it, and getting to witness it firsthand. I was in Peter Malnati’s wedding and we had a good-friend relationship, and he knew I wanted to keep playing. But, he knew it would be a good opportunity to push me forward. And it was, it was huge. Just stepping back, taking a lot at how the best players in the world played, as opposed to my game.
Away from golf, what do you like doing?
Anything to do with sports, I’m all-in on. That’s how I fractured my ankle (early in 2019), by playing softball. If there’s a sport around, I’m probably watching it or playing it.
What teams do you support?
It pains me to say this, but I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan. I’m a Texas Rangers fan, too. I don’t ever get too hyped up because I know what’s coming.
Is Texas barbecue as good as everyone says?
It’s awesome. I’ve had some from Rendezvous in Memphis; it can compete pretty well with Texas barbecue. I’ve had it on the driving range in Memphis there. But if you’ve got some good barbecue, Texas takes the cake.
What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Definitely a big ‘ol ribeye. I usually go to Texas Roadhouse. A 12 oz. ribeye, and I’m good to go.
What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
Back in the day when Cross Canadian Ragweed was playing and touring together, that was some of my best concerts. That was in my high-school days. Here lately I’ve become friends with Lee Brice and his band. Those shows are pretty awesome. I’ve been backstage with those guys and actually played a little golf with them. Me and the drummer, Donnie, are good buddies. We keep up with each other and they rock some Surf & Turf (clothing) which is what my roommates’ company is. He’s an entertainer, so those concerts are a lot of fun. He’s not a very good golfer though (laughs).
What does an ideal day look like for you?
Wake up, around 8 or 9 o’clock. Do a light workout. My roommate is a trainer, actually. Go to the golf course mid-morning, practice until lunch. Grab some lunch. Play nine or 18 with a couple buddies and call it a day, head home.