Delaware Today magazine 302 First Profile: Wilmington golfer Michael Tobiason Jr. and the U.S. Open
Junior’s Major: Michael Tobiason Jr. makes an interesting journey to the U.S. Open.
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For Michael Tobiason Jr., it was a bittersweet moment. For years, the Wilmington pro had struggled on the fringes of professional golf, playing small tournaments in the summer, teaching juniors during the fall and winter. Now, after two grueling qualifiers, he had made it to the 2011 U. S. Open—one of golf’s four major tournaments.
But his biggest fan—his father—wasn’t there to share this moment. “Big Mike” had succumbed to cancer 11 months earlier.
As he approached the first tee—he couldn’t help himself—the 27-year-old Tobiason began to tear up. But then, shirt collar up, driver in hand, he gathered himself and approached the ball. A moment later his long, lean body uncoiled into a textbook swing and the ball came off the tee like a rifle shot and landed 310 yards down the fairway. So began a six-day odyssey that would capture the imagination of many in the golfing world and fulfill the dream of the man who wasn’t there.
It had been a bumpy journey for Tobiason to the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Not the literal journey—the two-hour ride from Wilmington with his best friend and manager, Kyle McMahon, his caddie, Gerry “Mungo” Thornton, and his teacher, Eric MacCluen, crammed into Tobiason’s 2006 Honda Ridgeline. That had been a blast. So too was their stay at a $43-a-night motel in Fairfax, Va., where the four slept in a suite meant for two. Tobiason and McMahon bunked together, MacCluen got the pull-out couch, and Thornton slept on an air mattress between the bathroom and the kitchenette. For meals, they grazed the bountiful—and free—spreads put out by the Open, paying for only one dinner—at a sports bar—during their week-long adventure. This was not the typical buttoned-down, pastel-clad country club entourage that accompanies most professional golfers. But it was typical Mike Tobiason, who in turn is much like his father, “Big Mike,” who succumbed to bile duct cancer 11 months earlier at the age of 60.
His father was the one who would’ve derived the most pleasure from his son’s Open performance. Golf was the special bond that Senior and Junior shared. Big Mike was a “weekend warrior” who got his handicap down to 8 despite never taking a lesson. He was soft-spoken, but on the golf course father and son found a common language. “My dad had more fun on a golf course, and we always had fun playing together,” says Tobiason. “He was my biggest influence.”
And his No. 1 fan. It was Big Mike and his wife, Joan, who started their 7-year-old son on this golfing journey, buying him clubs for Christmas and scheduling lessons with MacCluen at Delcastle Golf Course, just minutes from their Albertson Park home.
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