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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Less than a year later, after two qualifying rounds, Michael Jr. was one of the more unlikely golfers among the 156 who teed off at the U. S. Open. But he quickly became a media and fan favorite after The Washington Times reported his everyman’s story. A Golf Channel crew filmed his every move for a documentary, and his gallery swelled to more than 100, including many who followed him from Delaware. They were intrigued not only by Tobiason but by his caddy, Thornton. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by Mungo, a 56-year-old cigar-smoking superintendent of grounds at the Chester County Prison who gives up his vacation to caddy for his friend, and whose nickname comes from a ’70s English rock group?
The two became semi-rock stars at the open. While people asked Tobiason for his autograph—for which he thanked them unfailingly—others placed side bets on how many cigars Thornton would smoke during a round.
Says Thornton, who is something of a surrogate father to Tobiason, “I smoke three to four cigars when he plays. It’s a great wind tool and it helps with the bugs.”
Joan Tobiason says a group of fans from New Jersey were particularly enthusiastic, following her son from hole to hole, many with beers in hand. As they headed to each new hole, she says, “They would yell, ‘Collars up!’” in honor of Tobiason’s habit of putting up the back of his collar—not as an affectation, but to protect his fair skin.
He finished 96th, missing the cut for the final two rounds by just three strokes. But for Team Tobiason, the tournament was a huge success. Not only did it get him major publicity, but it established his bona fides. Young Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa told him, “Michael, you can really hit it.” Veteran pro Bo Van Pelt told McMahon, “This dude belongs on the [PGA] tour.”
That may happen soon. Tobiason is in Orlando at the PGA Qualifying Tournament. Held each fall, “Q School” is an intense, three-stage event where more than 1,000 participants pay approximately $5,000 each in hopes of capturing one of the 30 spots on the PGA tournament, or the consolation prize of the Nationwide Tour.
The affable Tobiason has many friends in the Delaware and Pennsylvania golf communities, and they’ve arranged several benefit tournaments, including one at the DuPont Country Club—his dad’s home course—as well as other events to help cover his expenses. And, naturally, he’s staying at a golfing buddy’s house in Orlando.
Meanwhile, he just became the golf coach at his alma mater, Goldey-Beacom, where he will teach his basic approach to the game: Keep it simple. And have fun. It’s a lesson he learned from his biggest fan.