PGA Tour professional golfer Mark Wilson will play his third “Major” of the year this week. When he tees it up in the British Open on Thursday, he will have a special cheering section back home in the States of at least 12 golfers who had the chance to play with him on June 27 at Erin Hills, the site of the 2011 US Men’s Amateur Championship and the 2017 US Open. Wilson, the Honorary Chairman of the Lake Country Charity Invitational since 2007, played with three teams which were some of the leading fund-raisers for the annual Invitational which is sponsored by Hartland’s Arrowhead High School for the benefit of the MACC Fund. Hoping to help the MACC Fund any way he can, he has played with teams each year since the MACC Fund has benefited from the Lake Country Charity Invitational beginning in 2007. This is no small effort. This year it entailed a 12-hour plus day and was wedged in before an early morning flight on Tuesday to the Tour’s A T & T Tournament in Philadelphia. It also was the start of a three week tournament run culminating with the British Open.
Four golfers each from Arrowhead, Kettle Moraine and Whitnall High Schools played 6 memorable holes with Wilson. High school golf is near and dear to Mark’s heart. So is the MACC Fund since attending Milwaukee Bucks games with his dad. As a freshman, he was a member of the Wisconsin Lutheran High School team which won the WISAA state golf championship. After a great high school and junior golf career, he went on to become an All-American at the University of North Carolina where he was Mathematics major and won the prestigious Walter Hagen Award in 1997 for academic and athletic excellence.
Any follower of the MACC Fund knows that Mark is no stranger to the fight against childhood cancer and blood disorders. He and his lovely wife Amy have supported the cause since 2004, the year he joined the PGA Tour. In keeping with their desire to do all they can to help, they added an exciting new dimension to the Erin Hills event this year as an added incentive for the teams to play their best at the championship tract. They chipped in $25 for every Par and $50 for every Birdie made adding $3,000 to the 2011 Lake Country Charity Invitational proceeds which was played at Western Lakes Country Club in Pewaukee on April 29. This brought the total raised through the Invitational this year to $49,000, a remarkable sum proving that the players are as concerned for the children as they are for their game. The Lake Country Charity Invitational is sponsored by Hartland Arrowhead High School and features some of the state’s finest high school golf teams. The Invitational, under the direction of iconic former Arrowhead golf coach Tom Tallmadge, has as its motto ““Some kids play, so others might live.” The five-year donations from the Invitational which tees off the annual MACC Fund Golf Tour total $193,000.
The understated Wilson made quite an impression on the golfers he played with at Erin Hills. Steve Gerger of Hartland Arrowhead’s team noted “I was actually not nervous, believe it or not. He’s a real genuine guy, easy to get to know.” Nick Johnson of Kettle Moraine agreed saying “He’s a great guy. It’s like I’ve known him forever.” Arrowhead’s Kyle Driscoll commented “He’s awesome to play with. He’s really nice and very complimentary of everything.” Anyone who knows Mark knows that these fine golfers are not only good at hitting putts but they are also good at assessing people.
Mark, who has won four times on the Tour since 2004, is having his finest year in 2011. He is one of only three golfers who have won two tournaments this year, the Sony Hawaiian Open in January and the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. He has been in the top echelon in the FedEx Cup point standings since the second week of the PGA season and led the standings for three months following his Feb. 7 win at Phoenix where he an his caddy wore Cheeseheads on the famous 17th hole in honor of the Packers who were playing in the Super Bowl. He currently ranks sixth in the FedEx Cup standings and is ninth on the PGA Tour’s money list with $2,716,000 in earnings.
A member of the MACC Fund’s Honorary Athletic Board, Wilson’s “Making a Mark Fore MACC” donates to the MACC Fund for every 36-hole cut he makes in addition to contributing extra dollars for every top 10, 20 and 30 finish. Mark and his wife Amy have contributed $178,000 to the MACC Fund in the past 7 years, the largest amount ever donated to the MACC Fund by a professional athlete and his family.
No one knows who will win the Open Championship, but one thing is known for sure, Wisconsin’s high school golfers will be pulling for their newfound friend and backer, Mark Wilson. Kids battling cancer and blood disorders helped by Mark’s support of the MACC Fund will be cheering for him as well. So will I. I hope you do too.
John Cary, Executive Director