Major Victory for Mark Wilson: 2009 Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya

Major Victory for Mark Wilson: 2009 Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya

Mark Wilson celebrates with the winner's trophy after the final round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mark Wilson celebrates with the winner’s trophy after the final round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Winning a Major is the pinnacle of success in the world of professional golf. So much so that sometimes we forget about the journey to reach that lofty peak and the importance of each major step along the way.

Mark Wilson took one of those major steps by winning the third edition of the PGA Tour in Mexico: the 2009 Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya.

How important is it to win a sanctioned PGA Tour event? Majorly important, as it comes with a two-year exemption.

Interestingly enough, the All-Exempt Tour Priority Rankings are listed before any player biographies in the official 2009 guidebook. Bottom line is it does not matter who you are: Unless you have high enough priority to make it into the field for any given tournament you don’t play.

And if you don’t play, you can’t win official money, and sooner or later, your exemption will cease to exist on the PGA Tour.

Wilson’s last PGA Tour victory (and only until last week) came at the 2007 Honda Classic. Therefore, his two-year exemption was scheduled to expire at the end of the 2009 season. So Mark’s timing is perfect—two wins has equated to four years of being exempt into PGA Tour tournaments.

Of course, a tournament win doesn’t guarantee entry into all tournaments, as the four Majors, Players, WGC events, and invitation-only events (like the Mercedes Benz) have other, more exclusive selection criteria.

The Mayakoba win does not come with an automatic invitation to the 2009 Masters since there is not a full FedEx Cup point allocated to the event. Still, it is a huge win for Mark Wilson and sets the stage for bigger things to come in the future.

The win in Mexico is a boost of confidence for the 34-year-old golfer born in Menomonee Falls outside of Madison, Wisconsin. He currently lives in Elmhurst, Illinois (a Chicago suburb)

So, like other northern neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly, sometimes it takes him a few starts to “defrost” the winter swing. Out of five previous 2009 starts Wilson, who cites Ben Hogan as his hero, missed the cut at the Sony Open, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic hosted by Arnold Palmer, and the Northern Trust Open. And in the other two, the FBR Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he tied for 48th and 39th, respectively.

Wilson, who came out of the University of North Carolina in 1997 with a mathematics degree, turned pro immediately and climbed the ranks, winning three times on the Hooters Tour. In 2002, he played the Nationwide Tour and gained his tour card, finishing tied for 17th in the Qualifying Tournament. He finished No. 128 on the money list.

He split his time in 2004 between the PGA and Nationwide Tours. He narrowly secured his tour card again (at Q-School), finishing tied for 26th. But once again, he finished outside the magical top 125 on the money list (at No. 156)

Then he earned his tour card for the third time at the 2006 Q-School, finishing tied for 29th. Finally, he got his first victory in the 2007 Honda Classic in his 111th PGA Tour start, and he has not looked back.

Now, only 55 starts later (in his 166th), he has his second win.

To put this in perspective, there are eight veteran members of the tour still out there competing with well over 300 career starts and zero victories: Jay Delsing (555), Skip Kendall (387), Marco Dawson (371), Brett Quigley (338), Scott Gump (329), Michael Allen (328), Omar Uresti (305), and Harrison Frazar (305). Earlier this year, at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic hosted by Arnold Palmer, Pat Perez won his first PGA Tour event in his 198th start.

Congratulations, Mark Wilson, for taking another major step in your professional golfing career. May your next victory be a Major!