Capping off a landmark week for the APGA Tour, Willie Mack III birdied three of the first four holes in posting a second consecutive 69 on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Mack’s breakthrough 2021 season win at the Billy Horschel APGA Tour Invitational presented by Cisco on Saturday now includes six Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR starts, including making the cut at The Rocket Mortgage Classic and The John Deere Classic. Renowned PGA TOUR professional Billy Horschel founded this week’s APGA Tour event, which invited 18 top minority golfers to compete at TPC Sawgrass. The maiden tournament focuses on competition, promoting diversity and player development opportunities for golfers of color.
Mack found himself in a duel with amateur sensation Troy Taylor II, a rising senior at Michigan State, who was four-under after 11 holes to pull into a tie for the lead with seven holes remaining. Mack was trademark steady the rest of the way, posting a birdie on 16 to re-take the lead before closing the door with pars on 17 and 18 to finish 69-69-138. The 21 year-old Taylor, son of former Ohio State University basketball star Troy Taylor, took second place with a 71-71-142.
“I’m really excited to get this win in this event,” said Mack, who is headed to Korn Ferry Tour Q-School later this year. “It shows a lot for Billy (Horschel) to put this event on. My confidence is at a high level right now. Being able to get close to Billy. He’s given me some advice these past couple of weeks (while competing on the PGA TOUR). It’s always good to have someone like that in your corner.”
Taylor, who has two more years of eligibility at Michigan State because of the COVID 19 circumstances, stated, “The past two days have been second to none. Billy letting us connect with people in the business world and trying to help us in our future. It was just awesome.”
Marcus Byrd of Nashville, Tennessee, also shot 71 Saturday to take third at 74-71-145 with Kamaiu Johnson and Mahindra Lutchman tied for fourth, posting identical two-day scores of 71-75-146.
Johnson, the Tallahassee native who played in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Honda Classic earlier this year, now goes about defending his 2020 APGA Tour Championship August 9-10 at TPC Sugarloaf. Byrd is the APGA Tour Lexus Cup Point Standings leader heading into the final regular season event on the strength of his win at APGA Tour New Orleans and consistent performances through the rest of the schedule. Mack will also be in the APGA Tour Championship field at TPC Sugarloaf.
Lutchman, 22, from Orlando, finished third in the APGA Collegiate Rankings this past spring following his Florida A&M season and is one of five players whose performance in the college golf season earned them slots in the APGA Tour summer tournaments and the Pre-Qualifying Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament later this year.
Mack, 32, a standout college player at Bethune Cookman University and winner of 65 mini-tour competitions over the ensuing decade, earned the $25,000 first place prize, his largest ever, from the $80,000 purse.
“I think Willie should be on the PGA TOUR. It’s just a matter of time. He has the talent level…the athletic ability,” offered Horschel, who has taken a keen interest in the APGA Tour mission of bringing greater diversity to the sport of golf. “Sometimes it just takes a coach or someone you meet who’s had the success that sort of gives you that little confidence in yourself. It’s going to be really cool to see what happens over the next couple of years. I’ll continue to support him.”
“I saw Troy play in the Pro-Am and I thought, ‘this kid’s got a lot of talent,” Horschel continued. “He’s a big kid and he hits a mile. I was excited to see how well he played on a course like this against professional golfers, in tough conditions. He’s got a very bright future. I think in the next five years, you’re going to see more minority guys on the PGA TOUR. The reason this event was successful was because of the sponsors who stepped up. Now these guys are going to have people in the business world who are going to give them the resources and be another supportive voice for them. There are many different things, so this is the first ripple of many ripples — when you drop a rock in the water — of greater things to come.”
APGA Tour CEO Ken Bentley identified the event as critically important in the growth of the APGA Tour and its mission. “I want to give a special thank you to Billy Horschel and Cisco for providing this amazing opportunity for our players,” Bentley offered following the networking and business opportunity roundtable of Thursday and the two days of competition. “Not only did they get to compete on an iconic venue but the $80,000 purse is the largest in the history of the APGA Tour. A lot of people talk about making a difference but what I love about Billy is he is putting his time and financial resources into making sure our guys have the tools to compete and win at the highest levels.”