Mickelson learned game of golf from his father

Published 12:04 am Saturday, June 20, 2015

I have one thing in common with golfer Phil Mickelson.

I am right-handed.

But I recently learned something interesting about Mickelson.

He plays golf left-handed – a rare occurrence among players.

I came across his story told in a Los Angeles newspaper article published several years ago. Mickelson’s mother, Mary, recalled during an interview about how at age 18 months Phil liked nothing better than watching his dad practice his golf swing.

His dad would sit little Phil facing him and he watched his dad swing the club right-handed. Phil wanted to hit the ball as soon as he was able to swing a golf club. Though his family thought he’d soon get bored with the game, the boy continued to enjoy golf. In fact, he ran away from home at age three and a half, telling his neighbors he was going to the golf course.

By age nine, he got a job picking up golf balls on a driving range and course in exchange for playing time. At age 11, he would drive carts to pick up flags at night. His mother remembers that when he wasn’t on the golf course, Phil was playing on a tee and green they had build in their backyard.

Eventually, Mickelson was twice named Golf Magazine’s Junior Golfer of the Year. As a freshman at Arizona State, he became the youngest golfer to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship. He turned pro in 1992 and has won 42 events on the PGA Tour, including five major championships: three Masters titles, a PGA Championship, and an Open Championship.

Rick Hazeltine, the reporter who interviewed Mary Mickelson, wrote about parenting, “The smallest action or quietest remark can have a profound effect on a child.” Phil Mickelson, Sr. had no way of knowing how his enjoyment of golf would make such an impact on his son’s life. The son became a mirror image of his dad playing the game of golf.

Author Neil Strait has said, “The best gift a father can give his son is the gift of himself – his time. For material things mean little, if there is not someone to share them with.”

Phil Mickelson, a husband and father of three, finished the FedEx St. Jude Classic last Sunday with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole – tied for third at 8-under. After sinking the birdie putt, he picked up the ball from the cup and gave it to a young St. Jude patient wearing a caddie bib with his name on it.

He also signed his left-handed glove and gave it to the little girl, reminding her, “You’ve got a lot of people pulling for you.”

The Apostle Paul tells fathers to bring their children up “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV). Bible scholar William Barclay has written, “We can never afford to forget that we teach our children to call God Father, and the only conception of father that they can have is the conception we give them.” Fathers, your children are watching you. What are they learning about life?

-Jan White is an award-winning columnist. She can be reached at jwhite@andycable.com.