It’s show time for Mardy Fish. Show us what you got.
After taking an early retirement from a successful career as a tennis pro seven years ago due to an anxiety disorder, Fish has shown that he can play golf at an extremely high level.
Longtime Vero Beach residents remember that Fish was briefly the star of the Vero Beach High golf team along with close friend Jake Owen before Fish transferred to Boca Raton High to prepare for a living by chasing bigger green balls from the other side — he played tennis. right handed but golf left handed.
His initial career choice turned out to be the right one—Fish won six ATP titles, was once the top American in tennis and serves as the Davis Cup captain—but he probably could have made a career as a golfer, too.
Five years ago, he advanced to the PGA Tour q-school pre-qualifier to make it to the first stage of the tournament at Breakers West and play decent golf.
He became one of the stars on the celebrity golf circuit, winning two major events twice, the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions and the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe.
Heck, Fish even shot a 29 on Jack Nicklaus’ back nine at Jack’s Hard Bear’s Club in 2018, prompting the Golden Bear to call him “probably the best non-professional golfer I’ve ever seen play.”
That says a lot about Fish’s talent and ability to play under pressure.
But starting Thursday, Fish can really showcase his golf game as the 40-year-old plays in his first PGA Tour event. Fish received a sponsorship exemption at the 3M Open in Blaine, Minnesota, not far from where Mardy was born.
The uniqueness of his challenge is not lost on Fish. “I’m kind of a country club Bo Jackson,” Fish told Tennis.com last year, referring to former Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson, who played for the NFL’s Los Angeles Raiders and MLB’s Kansas City Royals.
Man, I’m excited to be here playing with these guys this week,” Fish said Tuesday. “I have to focus on the mental side like tennis, so that should help me a little bit.” Let’s hope for a cut.’
Hollis Cavner, whose company Pro Links Sports puts on the 3M Open and a half-dozen other events on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions, said it’s not just a marketing opportunity to attract Fish to the field.
“If he couldn’t play, he wouldn’t be here,” said Cavner, a Tequesta resident. “Not only has he played at the highest level in another sport, he’s won a lot of things on the celebrity side. Plus, a big part of playing on waivers is playing with our sponsors and stuff, and they love playing with a guy like Mardy.”
While Mardy and his family moved to the Treasure Coast when he was 5 so his father Tom could become the head tennis pro at the Windsor Club in Vero Beach, Fish remains a “die-hard” Minnesota sports fan.
“That’s my fault,” joked Tom Fish, who doesn’t need to mention that it’s been 30 years since the Minnesota Twins won a championship.
In preparation for the 3M Open, Fish spent the last week playing with Vikings Pro Bowl receiver Adam Thielen and former Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. It’s nice to have friends like that.
“Mardy is really excited to have this chance,” Tom Fish said. “Mardy reached out to try to get an exemption when he first started the 3M Open there (a transition to the 2019 PGA Tour) and was very appropriately turned down. .”
That was the year the tournament used its sponsorship exemptions on three talented newcomers: Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and (winner) Matthew Wolff.
Fish is not a threat to join Frank Conner as the only athletes in the modern era to play in both the US Open (golf) and the US Open (tennis). But that doesn’t reduce its versatility.
This week looks set to be a lofty goal for Fish. His father said he knew what would satisfy his son.
“I think when it’s over and if he feels like he played to his potential,” Tom Fish said, “that would be the goal.”
Chip shots: North Palm Beach’s Tyler Mistretta earned a spot in the US Amateur by finishing second in qualifying at the Hobe Sound Gold Club. Mistretta shot 72-69 to finish a stroke behind Argentina’s Joaquin Luduena. Local Treasure Coast golfer was Nashawn Tyson (74-73) of Stuart, who finished 12th. The Hobe Sound Golf Cub will also host the Florida State Amateur Match Play Championship 28-31. July.