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The journey of ‘Big Mike’ Visacki comes full circle this week at Valspar Championship

PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Michael Visacki teed off at the 12th gap of the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Golf Resort, not removed from a banner with the picture of Vijay Singh, the 2004 Valspar Championship winner, hanging from a avenue signal.

Seventeen years in the past, Visacki’s father, Mike Sr., introduced him to his first event and so they adopted Singh and Ernie Els. That day, a dream was born. “Just being a little kid thinking about one day I’ll be here,” Visacki mentioned of his fondest reminiscence of that day.

But there was one other second later that day away from the course that will be each bit as memorable. Before driving residence, his father stopped to fill the tank at a fuel station and, in a cheerful coincidence, Singh occurred to be throughout the aisle pumping fuel. Visacki Sr. nonetheless has the image he snapped of his son standing beside Singh.

Before they parted methods, Singh, who got here from nothing in Fiji to change into a Masters champion and a World Golf Hall of Famer, provided younger Mike three phrases of recommendation if he needed to play on the PGA Tour like him sometime. Visacki leaned in and listened as if Singh was about to inform him the key to life.

“Practice, practice, practice,” Singh mentioned.

Visacki, now 27, made his PGA Tour debut Thursday solely 90 minutes north of his hometown after making a 20-foot birdie putt in a playoff of a Monday qualifier to earn a spot within the subject at the Valspar Championship. In one of this week’s most heartwarming moments, “Big Mike,” as everybody calls him, broke down in tears as he phoned his father with the information.

“I don’t know who was worse – me or my wife,” Visacki Sr. mentioned. “Happy tears. I waited for this moment all of my life.”

Video of a blubbering Visacki, his voice rising as he advised his dad, “I made it,” went viral on social media and was replayed on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” NBC’s “The Today Show” and even Fox Business News.

Visacki is extra than simply the hometown child making good. His story resonated as a result of he by no means stop on his dream. He has been plying his commerce within the obscurity of golf’s bush leagues, notching 37 wins on the West Florida Pro Tour whereas piling on greater than 170,000 miles on his Honda Accord and residing at residence along with his mother and father. Daniel Robinson, a fellow mini-tour participant mentioned, “We all think of him as No. 1 in the world without a world ranking.”

Mike Visacki, father of PGA golfer Mike Visacki, watches as his son performs his first spherical of the Valspar Championship golf event. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, his fellow mini-tour rivals similar to Dominic Formato had been half of a boisterous crew that witnessed Visacki stripe his opening drive down the center at the primary gap and practically gap a bunker shot for eagle at the par 5. He tapped in for a birdie at his first gap on the PGA Tour and his buddies roared with approval.

“He makes us all believe in our own dreams a little more,” Formato mentioned, “and just reminds you that sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is closer than it seems.”

Visacki couldn’t keep his fairytale begin, bogeying the subsequent three holes in a row en path to taking pictures 3-over 74, leaving him 10 strokes behind chief Keegan Bradley and with work to do to make the 36-hole lower.

But nothing may spoil Visacki’s day. He waved his hat in appreciation as he acquired an ovation at the 12th inexperienced from followers at the Hooters Owl’s Nest, and as one volunteer identified, Visacki had the biggest gallery outdoors of Phil Mickelson.

“It is sweet whether he makes the cut or not,” Visacki’s father mentioned. “He made his place in the world. I knew he could do it. It was just a matter of time.”

Kaylor Steger, caddie for Mike Visacki, wears the title Big Mike on the again of his bib in the course of the first spherical of the Valspar Championship golf event. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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