Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Like father like son.”
Or perhaps you have heard the saying, “The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.”
Both fit Marc Issler. To a tee.
The former Toms River High School North standout is one of the state’s top golfers.
He won the recent 98th State Open at the Montclair Golf Club at Rock Spring in West Orange.
Issler’s caddy happened to be his dad, Bob Issler, who won the event in 1981.
The Isslers are just the second father and son team to win the New Jersey State Golf Association event. Art Silvestrone Sr. came out on top in 1972 and 1973 and his son, Art Jr., captured the championship in 1979.
“My dad brought me to tournaments when I was younger,” said Issler, 32. “He has been there for me all along. It’s definitely an advantage when you have your dad as a pro and you play golf. That helps.”
Young Issler said he began spending time on the links at around the age of six.
“That’s my first real recollection of playing,” he said, “but I probably began playing before that. My dad has been a big part of my playing golf. He got me into it when I was a kid. Now, he is my dad, caddy and friend. He is usually the first person I talk to after a round. When he is not there, I give him the story – good or bad.”
Issler downplayed his genetics.
“I don’t feel any extra pressure to play good golf,” he said. “If you are good enough, you are good enough. If you are not, you are not. I have had my share of struggles. When that happens, you ask yourself, ‘Which one is it?’ It is either get better or that’s it. You have plateaued and that is as good as you are going to get. I don’t think I have any more talent than anyone else.
“I put a lot of time and effort into it. Anyone who is good at something – doctor, financial advisor – anyone who is good at something puts in a lot of time trying to get better at it.”
There’s an old golf saying, “Drive for show and putt for dough.”
With $15,000 at stake for winning the title, Issler came up big, scoring a birdie on the par four 18th hole, a nearly 400-yard layout. He put home a left-to-right eight footer to come away richer. He set up the putt with a five-iron shot from 182 yards uphill that touched down to the right of the hole.
“I hit a pretty good shot on the last hole to get close to the pin,” Issler said. “I knocked the ball to where I wanted and I made the putt. I did not stew over the putt too long or worry about it. The more you stew, the better the chance is that you will miss it. That is kind of how I play in general. I go with my gut instinct in general and it just happened to go in.”
He was aware of the importance of sinking the putt.
“As soon as it went in,” he said, “I knew I won the tournament.”
Issler finished the final round with a one-under par 69. He finished the event with a one-under par 209. Issler opened the event with a 68. However, despite his stellar round, the part time Toms River resident trailed by two strokes. He followed with a 72.
“I birdied the 18th to win and that’s all that matters,” he said. “You can win by either one stroke or 13 strokes. I am from this state and this is definitely the biggest event in the state. It’s one you want to win. Any golfer in the state has known about this event for a long time.”
Issler is no stranger to the event.
“I have played in it at least 10 times,” he said, “and this is the first time I have won it.”
He has plans for his winnings.
“I will probably just invest it,” he said. “It’s $15,000 more than I had the other day.”
Issler was far from unfamiliar with the course.
“I felt like I had a chance to win the event as I played the course a couple of times before the tournament,” he said. “The course fit my game as it is not real long. In the last three or four years, a lot of the trees were taken out. The greens were tough, but they fit me well as I did not have to hit the ball real far. I told myself during the whole week of the tournament, ‘Stay patient and see what happens.’ ”
As a youngster, Issler dabbled in baseball and basketball.
“I was not tall enough or fast enough for basketball,” the 5-foot-10 Issler said. “I realized I could play real well probably when I was about 15 years old. I began to learn how to shoot a good score and how to grind and take my time a little bit.”
Coached by John Ziemba and Rich Wortman (the latter guides the Ocean County College team), Issler won the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Group IV state title as a junior and senior for the Mariners. He played four years of varsity golf.
“When you get better every year, it motivates you to continue to work at it,” Issler said. “Very few people work harder at something when they are not seeing results. You have to be very patient. It takes a long time to see the results you are looking for. A lot of golf is mental.”
Issler wound up at High Point University in North Carolina where he earned All-Big South Conference honors in 2006. He graduated with a business management degree.
He became a member of the Professional Golfers Association in 2009. He’s the head professional at the Toms River Golf Center, owned by his dad, also a PGA member. Marc Issler spends the cold weather residing in Jupiter, Fl., and providing lessons at the Country Club at Mirasol in nearby Palm Beach Gardens.
“The guys who say they would rather teach than play can’t play,” Issler said. “I would rather play 100 percent of the time. Playing golf is not a bad way to make a living. It’s a perfect storm if you play good golf.”