KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Former caddie Mikel Martinson secures Korn Ferry Tour membership via Second Stage
November 13, 2019
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Mikel Martinson has caddied for Peter Malnati, Bobby Gates and Brice Garnett. Now he's a Korn Ferry Tour member. (Courtesy of Mikel Martinson)
Lying in bed earlier this year after fracturing his fibula, Mikel Martinson thought his golf career was over.
But thanks to dogged determination, inspiration from some TOUR winners, and golf’s wild unpredictability, Martinson has advanced to Final Stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School for the first time in 10-plus years as a professional golfer.
This fall, Martinson has maintained a laser-like focus on his objective. He says he put a photo of the words ‘Korn Ferry Tour Finals’ as his lock screen on his phone, so it was the first thing he saw when he woke up and the first thing he’d see whenever he’d touch his phone.
But despite this, he nearly blew it. He’ll be the first to admit it.
Martinson, who hails from Throckmorton, Texas (population 700), played Second Stage at Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Florida. With three holes remaining in the final round, he was 12-under for the week, figuring the number to advance to Final Stage would likely be 10- or 11-under.
The Wayland Baptist alum had an eagle try on the par-5 16th but three-putted for par. He made bogey on No. 17 but was still right there. He overheard some people talking about the magic number as he made his way to the 18th tee. He might be OK.
Still, he had to finish.
Martinson had to punch out for his second on 18, and caught a flier for his third. He had a 45-foot putt for par. He knew he had to two-putt to have a chance to advance on the number.
“That was hard. That I had a 45-footer, and I’ve never made it to (Final Stage) before, that was downhill, down-grain, up and over a ridge … and I putted it to two inches,” he says, relief dripping from his voice. “I tried to stay in the moment and hit one of the best putts I’d hit all week.
“I still had lots of emotions in my head. Did I just blow it? Did I just clutch up and have one of the best two-putts of my life? It was life-changing.”Mikel Martinson remains close friends with the Malnati and Garnett families. (Courtesy of Mikel Martinson)
Not only did he survive on the number, his back-to-back bogeys actually let in five other players who were, up until that putt dropped, on the outside looking in. Martinson was like Santa Claus, delivering a holiday gift about a month-and-a-half early.
At 10-under for the week, Jordan Hahn, Mark Blakefield, Trevor Cone, Ryan Sullivan and Donnie Trosper all advanced to Final Stage.
Martinson says Sullivan, who made birdie on the difficult 18th just to get to 10-under, is one of his good friends. Sullivan immediately texted Martinson saying, ‘Dude, you’re my favorite person in the world right now.’ Trosper, whom he has never met, sent him an Instagram message with an offer to buy dinner at Final Stage.
“Once it’s over with, I was relieved and thankful I could help those guys out,” Martinson says with a laugh. “I added a few more gray hairs than I wanted to, but I thank the good Lord it worked out.”
Now, though, Martinson has to shift gears from helping his fellow competitors to trying to beat them.
He has been able to pick the brains of some PGA TOUR winners on attitude and hard work – having caddied for the likes of Peter Malnati, Brice Garnett and Bobby Gates in the past, he knows what works and what doesn’t.
He says Malnati – for whom he caddied for during Malnati’s rookie TOUR season – made all the typical rookie mistakes like changing equipment and trying to hit it further, en route to making just five cuts. But his attitude is what kept him progressing and eventually helped him find the winner’s circle.
Martinson stayed with the Malnati family while driving from Texas to Florida, along with Garnett in Georgia. They played golf and talked about what was to come.I’ve always said, ‘When it’s your time, it’s your time,’ but at some point, you have to make it your time.
Nobody could’ve predicted how his week would have ended, nor could anyone have seen how his year would have played out after his broken ankle.
He said he’d have taken a different route with life if he didn’t earn any status this year. He was going to get a job and start making money.
Martinson wanted to try, though. He didn’t want his golf career to finish while he laid in bed.
For Mackenzie Tour Q-School, he found a shoe that was a size bigger and toughed it out. He earned conditional status (making just two starts) but it was something. He had blisters on his left foot, and his right foot was very much fractured after the week finished, but he did it.
“It was the most painful thing I’ve done in my life,” says Martinson. “I think the blisters were worse than the fracture.”
But the mind, he says, is a powerful thing. He pushed through pain earlier in the year. He almost willed himself through Second Stage.
And now all he can think about is what can happen in mid-December just outside Orlando.
More than a decade into his career, Martinson finds himself in unfamiliar territory at Final Stage. It’s time to embrace it, get to work and get the job done.
By finishing inside the top-40 (and ties) at Orange Country National, he would secure guaranteed starts in the first eight events of the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season.
“I’ve had a different approach to the game this year,” Martinson says. “I’ve always said, ‘When it’s your time, it’s your time,’ but at some point, you have to make it your time.
“That’s the approach I’m going with. I’m not going to sit on it. I know what I have to do.”