DETROIT – Willie Mack III knows he’s getting noticed on the golf course.
The native Flinter has been mistaken for a caddy several times, but he doesn’t let himself be dissuaded. After ten years of professionalism, Mack is looking to become the fifth full-time black golfer on the PGA Tour this season and the exceptions from recent sponsors have helped him along the way.
But golf fans will notice something else Mack: the sleeve that he wears on his left arm. On social media, he uses # Mack3Sleeve to promote his look, which doesn’t add any value to his golf game, but rather a tribute to his second favorite sport – basketball.
“I grew up playing basketball, played basketball, and liked Allen Iverson, so I thought I’d just take it to the golf course,” said Mack after Sunday’s final round at Detroit Golf Club’s Rocket Mortgage Classic, where he got a 1 . shot -under par 71. “(I liked) everything about him. He was a bit like me, little, could shoot, so I just went with him.”
At his second PGA Tour event this season, Mack’s first round shooting of 4 under par 68 – which was split into two days due to the weather delay on Thursday – drove him to his first PGA Tour cut. His relatives celebrated him by creating bespoke white Willie Mack t-shirts that they could wear throughout the tournament.
“I think the first round of just getting out and shooting 4-under was a good start, but it’s exciting to make the cut and play in front of my friends and family over the weekend,” said Mack.
Mack finished his first appearance at the Rocket Mortgage Classic with a tournament total of 284.4 under par and a tie for 71st place.
“I think it was just my overall game. I just burned a lot of edges this week. I think my driver and my putting were probably the best,” said Mack on Sunday. “I want to turn it one more time. Fortunately, I got to John Deere (Classic in Silvis, Illinois) next week so hopefully I can take that momentum and play well next week.”
Playing with the exception of one other sponsor, Mack has, ahem, the answer to play well next week.
“I have to work on a couple of wedge shots but just got my putting. I’ve played this course a couple of times, it’s pretty short,” he said. “Hopefully it doesn’t rain so it doesn’t play that long. (I) just have to do a few more putts and hopefully they’ll fall next week.”
Iverson dominated the NBA in the early 2000s, and his signature braids and arm sleeves set fashion trends across all sports. It also intrigued Mack, who was delighted to see his favorite player play for the Detroit Pistons in the 2008-09 season.
Mack’s love for basketball dates back to his childhood. He played basketball at Grand Blanc through middle school and mid-high school, but at six feet tall, his decision to quit basketball and focus on golf was not a difficult one.
“I was much better at golfing, so I chose the right sport,” said the 32-year-old with a smile.
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