It’s show time for Mardy Fish. As in 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 glimpses he can also play golf at an extremely high level.
Longtime Vero Beach residents remember Fish was briefly a star on the Vero Beach High golf team, along with close pal Jake Owen, before Fish transferred to Boca Raton High to prepare to make a living chasing larger green balls from a different side – he played tennis right-handed, left-handed golf goal.
His initial career choice decision proved correct – Fish won six ATP titles, was once the top-ranked American in tennis and serves as Davis Cup captain – but he likely could have made a career as a golfer, as well.
He advanced at a PGA Tour q-school pre-qualifier five years ago to make it to a first-stage event at Breakers West and played respectable golf.
He has become one of the stars on the celebrity golf circuit, twice winning the two marquee events, the Hilton Grand Vacations Tournament of Champions and the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe.
Heck, Fish even shot 29 on a nine in the company of Jack Nicklaus at Jack’s tough Bear’s Club in 2018, prompting the Golden Bear to call him “probably the best non-professional golfer I’ve seen play.”
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That says plenty about Fish’s talent and ability to perform under pressure.
But starting Thursday, Fish can really show off his golf game when the 40-year-old plays in his first PGA Tour event. Fish was given a sponsor exemption into the 3M Open in Blaine, Minn., 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 said to Tennis.com last year, referring to former Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson, who starred for the NFL’s Los Angeles Raiders and MLB’s Kansas City Royals.
Man, I am excited to be out here playing with these guys this week,” Fish said Tuesday. “Gotta focus in on the mental side as I did with tennis, so that should help me a bit. Let’s hope for a made cut.”
Hollis Cavner, whose company Pro Links Sports runs the 3M Open and a half-dozen other events on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions, said this isn’t just a marketing opportunity to lure Fish into 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 has won a lot of stuff on the celebrity side. Plus, a big part of playing on an exemption is playing with our sponsors and such, 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 professional at the Windsor Club in Vero Beach, Fish remains a “diehard” Minnesota sports fan.
“That’s my fault,” Tom Fish joked, who didn’t need to mention it’s been 30 years since a Minnesota team (Twins) won a championship.
To prepare for the 3M Open, Fish has spent the last week playing with Vikings Pro Bowl receiver Adam Thielen and former Viking tight end Kyle Rudolph. Nice to have friends like that.
“Mardy is really excited to have this chance,” said Tom Fish. “Mardy reached out to try and get an exemption when the 3M Open first started there (transitioning to a PGA Tour event in 2019), and he was very appropriately turned down .”
That was the year the tournament used its sponsor exemptions on three talented rookies: Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and (winner) Matthew Wolff.
Fish is no threat to join Frank Conner as the only athlete in the modern era to play in the US Open (golf) and US Open (tennis). But that doesn’t diminish his versatility.
Making the cut this week would seem to be a lofty goal for Fish. His father said he knows what will make his son satisfied.
“I think when it’s over and if he feels like he played to his capabilities,” Tom Fish said, “that would be the goal.”
Chip shots: Tyler Mistretta of North Palm Beach earned a spot in the US Amateur by finishing second in a qualifier at Hobe Sound Gold Club. Mistretta shot 72-69 to finish a stroke behind Joaquin Luduena of Argentina. The local Treasure Coast golfer was Nashawn Tyson (74-73) of Stuart finishing 12th. Hobe Sound Golf Cub also will host the Florida State Amateur Match Play Championship July 28-31.