Phil Mickelson Becomes “The People’s Champion”

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All that the media could talk about in the days leading up to The Masters was Tiger Woods.  Will he win?  How will he handle the pressure?  How will the people respond to him?  Will Elin be at Augusta?  But, in the midst of this media circus was a TRUE story.  A story worthy of the front page.  A story that should’ve had press conferences.  A story that would make everyone forget about all that’s bad in golf.  That story is of Phil Mickelson or “Lefty” as I once called him.  I had the pleasure of meeting Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy at the Colonial Golf Tournament in the year 1998.  Hardly a household name yet, Phil was still accessible to the public.  I worked the event as a valet at the front and got to witness some amazing things from numerous golfers.  The drunken vulgar language filled conversation with Curtis Strange, the unbelievable Payne Stewart jumping out of his Lexus at 5:45am with his stereo blasting and singing Pink Floyd’s “Learning to Fly”, sitting with Peter Jacobsen in his car while we waited for his wife to be loaded into an ambulance after she got tipsy and bumped her head on a table at the Champions dinner, and of course chatting with Phil Mickelson about the inscription “Lefty” on his putter as he waited out front for his wife.  (For the record, he hated that inscription but the sponsors wanted it on there)  Amy was the belle of the ball on the tour back then.  Young, beautiful, kind, and always smiling.  Everyone knew Amy.  Trust me, all the valets wanted to park the Mickelson’s car back then ;)

It’s 12 years later now and times have changed a bit.  One thing remains the same, Amy Mickelson is still loved by the fans and the PGA community on the tour.  So when word spread that she was diagnosed with breast cancer it hit the PGA tour like a ton of bricks.  Not only would Phil Mickelson be carefully selecting the tournaments he would play in, but the PGA Tour’s brightest face behind the ropes, Amy Mickelson, would be absent as well.  Talk about pressure.  Phil Mickelson must find a way to be a supportive husband, a strong father of 3 young girls, and still please the masses by playing like the #2 player in the world.  Not an easy job.  To add insult to injury, Phil’s mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer.

What Phil Mickelson didn’t know is that he had an army of followers who were there to support him the entire journey.  He and Amy didn’t make it to the 2009 Colonial Golf Tournament.  They were at home.  Fort Worthians didn’t care.  They showed their support of Amy and Phil by lining the streets of Country Club Drive in Fort Worth, TX with signs wrapped around trees and pink clothing.  The Saturday round was considered a “Pink Out”.  Golfers and fans alike wore pink in honor of breast cancer awareness and to support Phil Mickelson.  It was the moment that Phil and Amy Mickelson knew they wouldn’t be alone in this fight.

Fast forward a year.  We are in the midst of one of the biggest golf stories ever.  Tiger Woods and his extra-marital affairs.  The #1 golfer in the world was unfaithful?  That was the headline.  That isn’t news……..that is gossip.  That is trash.  These days the media finds ways to destroy our sports heroes when they should be building them up.

Where was the story on Phil Mickelson?  Where was the story about the world’s #2 golfer who has been through a tramatic year supporting his wife and mother suffering from breast cancer?  The story about how Amy Mickelson wasn’t healthy enough to celebrate Phil’s wins on the 18th green anymore?  Where was the story about his unconditional love and loyalty to stand by his wife?  Those headlines were absent.  Such a shame.  A wasted opportunity to get the story right for once.  A perfect time to ask….Will he win? How will he handle the pressure?  How will the people respond?  But instead of Tiger, insert the name Phil Mickelson.  That’s a headline.  That’s the story people want to hear about.

Only after Phil Mickelson had secured his 3rd green jacket and strolled up the 18th fairway did the media turn their attention to the TRUE story at the Masters this year.  The story of a man who overcame incredible odds to rise up and claim another Masters title.  “The People’s Champion”.  Someone that the people could relate and look up to.  And when Phil closed out his Masters win with a birdie putt on the 18th green do you know who was there to witness his triumph?   Hundreds of supporters, his three children, and…………………..Amy, the brightest face behind the ropes.

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