Mini-tour golfer who went viral comes up just short in 3M Open’s Monday qualifier


The 3M Open’s Monday qualifier at Victory Links drew 69 hopeful golfers, every one of them with their own chasing-the-dream story.

North Oaks amateur Frankie Capan shot a 7-under-par 65 in the morning’s second group and waited all day only to discover it wasn’t good enough to make a playoff for one of four spots in this week’s PGA Tour event at TPC Twin Cities.

Louisville’s Stephen Stallings chipped in three times in four holes and shot a career-best 61 that included a back-nine 29, just one day after a 75th-place finish at the tour’s Barbasol Championship.

And then there was Michael Visacki, a Florida mini-tour legend of sorts who toiled seven years on those minor league mini-tours, Q Schools and PGA Tour Monday qualifiers.

He did so until he finally succeeded in one and played alongside Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen, among others, in April’s Valspar Championship that he had attended as a boy, just 90 minutes from his family’s home in Sarasota, Fla.

A video of his thankful and tearful call to his father, Mike, that Monday after he qualified has been seen 1.6 million times on Facebook. It expressed in more than words his gratitude to both his dad and mom, Donna, for the sacrifices they made to get him there.

“You’re trying to do something for a living and you know you have it and for all this time you’ve been getting knocked down,” Visacki said. “Finally, to be able to stand back up and knock it out one time, it felt really nice.”

That video was shown everywhere from ESPN and “Good Morning America” to TMZ. A big man nicknamed “Big Mike,” Visacki received millions more mentions on his social-media accounts, particularly after he birdied his first hole that Thursday in the Valspar.

“I love this, I love golf,” he said Monday. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do, since I was 8 years old.”

Taken by Visacki’s emotion, passion and his video, Thomas bankrolled his expenses with a check when Visacki received a sponsor’s exemption in May to play at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas.

Thomas was irked his financial contribution became known publicly. He told reporters before June’s Memorial tournament, “I just felt it was so refreshing and great to see — and how genuine his excitement and emotions were.”

Visacki calls himself forever one of Thomas’ biggest fans.

“He just did it out of the kindness of his heart,” Visacki said. “Helping me out, letting me live my dream, he knows how tough it is. He knew I needed just a little support and help and now I’m set for a while.”

On Monday, Visacki teed off in silence with Joshua Gibson of Grandville, Mich., and Canada’s Matt Bean in a midmorning tee time that attracted a father and his young son for a few holes because they had seen the video.

At age 27, Visacki has won 38times professionally. The latest, Sunday’s victory at the Waterloo Open in Iowa, earned a $50,000 payday — three times the biggest winnings in his career — and it helped soothe the sting of Monday’s 69. The four qualifiers led by Stallings all shot 64 or better on the par-71 course to earn an invitation to tee it up Thursday in Blaine.

He drives a 2010 Honda Accord with 208,000 miles on it and stays with family and friends whenever he can on the road. He and a hometown friend caddying for him are headed back to Iowa for the Cedar Rapids Open, then will fly to Colorado for a big mini-tour event.

When asked what changed his life more, a chance to play in a PGA Tour event or that video, he said, “Personally, for me, Valspar, but I think everybody likes it for the video. It’s unbelievable. I get so many messages a day. It’s just crazy how much love and support I’ve received. I’ve not received one bad thing [on his social media] and that’s a miracle.”

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