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Willie Mack III won his 66th professional title on Saturday at the inaugural Billy Horschel APGA Tour Invitational at TPC Sawgrass.
“It’s been a special few days this week,” Mack told APGA Tour media after shooting 69-69 to win by four shots. “Just having Billy Horschel’s name associated with the event is special.”
Horschel, a six-time PGA Tour winner, learned about the APGA Tour’s mission to diversify golf and provide developmental opportunities to minority players. Inspired by their mission, Horschel told his team he wanted to host an APGA Tour event and immediately, sponsors like Cisco and PGA Tour Superstore jumped on board.
“I feel like I have a connection with the players because I wasn’t a country club kid,” said Horschel, who was born in Grant-Valkaria, Florida. “I grew up lower-middle class so we didn’t have the financial backing to go play tournaments around the country. I received my first new set of clubs when I turned 13 and before that they were just hand-me-downs and knock-offs.”
Coincidentally, Horschel is familiar with Mack as they met at a couple of PGA Tour events, for which Mack received a sponsor's exemption, and now they have the same swing coach, Todd Anderson.
“He [Horschel] shoots me some texts throughout my couple PGA Tour starts,” said Mack on Horschel. “It’s always exciting to have him be so successful and give a hand to somebody who’s trying to get where he’s at.”
Mack is the most successful player in the history of the APGA Tour, alongside Tim O’Neal. He holds seven victories and two Lexus Cup titles as the APGA Tour Player of the Year. A Farmers Insurance brand ambassador, Mack has played in four PGA Tour events this year, making his last two cuts. He believes the opportunities to play on the PGA Tour have boosted his confidence to continue dominating on the APGA Tour. “It’s helped me learn how to stay calm and play better on courses,” said Mack, who also loves to pick Horschel's and Anderson’s brains on how to improve.
The PGA Tour has also made a big push to help diversify the game, including starting First Tee programs in inter-cities and partnering with the APGA Tour. “We are going in the right direction,” said Mack. “It’s not going to be an easy fix or a fast fix, but the PGA Tour being able to partner with APGA Tour Tour has been huge success for everyone that plays.”
“Just another opportunity for these guys to continue their dream to play tour golf, but also connect them with people in the business world who would love to help and mentor them along the way is huge,” said Horschel. “We need to support people of all background and ethnicities because that’s the only way golf is going become more diverse and more inclusive.”