Eleven months ago, Michael Gligic tied for 10th at the TPC Colorado Championship. Years of hard work and perseverance had paid off for the Canadian, in the form of a PGA Tour card. Finally.
Not every golfer gains a quick entrance onto the PGA Tour. After turning pro in 2008, Gligic needed 12 years to reach golf’s highest level. Then, when he finally got there for the 2019-20 season, his rookie year was halted in March when the Covid-19 pandemic shut down professional golf.
Now, the Burlington, Ontario, native is teeing it up at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C., his first PGA Tour event in more than three months. (He played last week’s Korn Ferry Challenge and missed the cut.)
The 30-year-old competed in 13 tournaments before the PGA Tour went on a three-month hiatus. But Gligic was unaffected. The break provided an opportunity to recharge.
“The time off was much needed after graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour,” he said. “I had five days off between seasons. So, it was nice to put down the clubs for a little bit.”
Gligic and his wife, Natasha, remained at their Florida home in Jupiter. His home course, Dye Preserve, was open during the break, so Gligic had plenty of opportunity to practice when he was ready to pick his clubs back up. He also worked with his mental performance coach, Paul Dewland, on the aspects of his game he can control, and not creating pressure for himself.
“I worked with Michael to develop habits of physical relaxation and breathing patterns,” Dewland said. “We had time to work on keeping his body loose and the breathing mechanism moving properly. Practicing these skills as he plays golf will allow these habits to become daily routines.”
Gligic relies on the knowledge of Dewland, swing coach Sean Foley and short-game instructor Gareth Raflewski, all of whom worked with him throughout his career when he struggled to make the PGA Tour. Twice he left the game to pursue other career options but returned each time, motivated to improve.
“Most golfers who have been at it for a while had some serious thoughts about giving up,” Gligic said. “I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about leaving the game for good. But when I jumped back in, I started finding success, which propelled the second half of my career.”
After recording three top 10s on the Mackenzie Tour in 2018, Gligic moved to the Korn Ferry Tour. His 2019 season included a win at the Panama Championship, with a final-round 65, earning him PGA Tour status.
But a delay in this season pales in comparison to the years of doubt and uncertainty Gligic underwent to determine if he was good enough to reach the highest level.
Now that he is there, the restart is a chance to prove he belongs. Far from an easy task; with stronger fields at the remaining tournaments, it means fewer opportunities for Gligic to compete, given his rookie status.
Foley, whose other clients include players like Cameron Champ and Danny Willett (and previously Tiger Woods), says if Gligic’s game improves off the tee, success will follow.
“I have to remind players that if you are going through a difficult time to just keep digging deep,” Foley said. “For Mike, if he focuses on driving the ball better on longer golf courses, it will help him the next couple of years.”
Gligic returns to action with some nice cushion, though, since the PGA Tour announced no golfer will lose their card this year. While the game looks different with no fans, it reminds Gligic of his days playing the mini tours. And as he resumes his inaugural season on the PGA Tour, it is a testament that the journey was worth the effort.
Lukas Weese (@Weesesports) is a sports journalist based in Toronto, Canada. He has covered several professional golf events, including the Canadian Open, PGA Championship and Tour Championship. His work can be found in several different outlets, including PGATour.com and Sportsnet.ca.