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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At first, young Michael showed more interest in his new Nintendo game than in golf. “He was a handful, very stubborn,” remembers MacCluen, now head instructor at Applecross Country Club in Downingtown, Pa. “But he had all the talent in the world. And big; he was 7, but I thought he was 11.”
Tobiason soon grew to love the game, followed MacCluen to Hartefeld National in Avondale, and by the time he was 9, began playing in local and regional tournaments.
After St. Elizabeth High School, where he was all-state in golf and honorable mention in basketball, the 6-3 Tobiason went to Goldey-Beacom College on a golf, basketball and academic scholarship. A natural forward, he was pressed into service as a center at the Division II school. Going up against much bigger players, he got banged around and suffered multiple broken noses, but, he says, “It was a good test.” His Goldey golf career was much less bloody and much more successful: He was a Ping All-American two years running.
After graduating with a degree in human resource management, he took his $3,000 savings, put his clothes and clubs in his dad’s 2005 Chevy Malibu, and headed for Florida to play the minor league circuit. It was a ritual he has followed every summer since. The thriftiness he displayed at the Open was honed on those trips to Florida, the Carolinas and many other parts of the country. He rarely flies, drives to almost every tournament, usually sleeps at friends’ homes—and, when necessary, in his car.
“I’m not picky,” he says. “I don’t need a lot. I’m used to sleeping on the floor and in awkward positions, and I’ve become a good cook by cooking for myself on the road. And I like to drive.”
The tough part of his summers is being away from his 5-year-old son, Aiden. Tobiason shares custody with Aiden’s mother, who lives in Newark.
Often, the friends he calls on for overnight accommodations are former students. He started teaching at MacCluen’s academy in 2004, and in 2007 became an assistant pro at Hartefeld, and went back to MacCluen’s academy for the 2011 season. “I probably know 90 percent of the [junior golfers] in the state,” Tobiason says.
“He’s wonderful,” says MacCluen. “The kids love him, the adults love him. He makes people feel good.”
Tobiason was playing in Florida in March 2009 when he learned about his father’s cancer. “It wasn’t something we wanted to tell him over the phone, so we planned a trip to take Aiden down to see his daddy,” says Joan Tobiason. “It didn’t need much explanation. Mike Sr. was ashen and had little stamina and had lost weight. Michael knew immediately.”
After 15 months of bi-weekly chemotherapy sessions failed to stop the cholangiocarcinoma, Joan set up home hospice for her husband. For eight days in July of last year, she, Michael Jr. and her daughter, Michele, tended to Big Mike around the clock. Her stepson, Bob, who was fighting a failing kidney, checked in most nights.
Sitting in her tidy living room recently, she recalled her husband’s last days. “Michael took the midnight-to-eight shift. Michele would come in at eight and find Michael with the couch pulled up against the bed, holding his dad and talking golf. He died here, and my daughter, my son, and my stepson were all here with him.”
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