25 years ago there was a clash of the Titans. A virtual “Celebrity Death Match” of golf.
It was Phil Mickelson and Harry Rudolph (another great junior player from San Diego who had a similar success on the Nationwide Tour that I did) against Bob May (for those who don’t remember, he had a great struggle with Tiger at the 2000 PGA) and door #4…namely me.
We were teenagers. I was the oldest, but the least accomplished of the four which was not a disgrace as these were three of the greatest players in the history of junior golf in Southern California.
I will just say, Phil was acting like a punk and it started on the very first tee.
By the third or forth hole it was so bad, even his partner Harry was becoming annoyed.
We then began discussing a subject that was not golf related.
I won’t reveal the subject matter, but let’s just say it was something that is at the forefront of the minds of teenage boys and this time, Phil was the least accomplished.
Trying to fit into the discussion, Phil made…how do I put this…a faux pas. Well, the three of us sensed weakness and jumped on Phil without remorse and it continued through the turn. By this time, Phil was walking down the fairway by himself and was crying.
The funniest part, he was still lighting it up on the scorecard and despite some exceptional play from Mr. May and myself, we lost.
I did not see Phil after that for about 5 or 6 years.
The question begs, “Monte, why are you telling this story about Phil right after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer? That is kicking a man when he is down.”
That is exactly why I am telling this story and I need to add one more fact.
A few years ago, athletes of several sports were polled about which athlete in their own sport is the biggest jerk and most hated by his peers. To no ones surprise, Terrell Owens topped the list. It surprised many that Phil was around #6 and the only golfer who made it.
He has a nickname on the PGA Tour. FIGJAM. **** I’m Good, Just Ask Me.
Now on to my experience. Throughout the 90’s I lived at PGA West in La Quinta, where one of the rounds of the Bob Hope was played.
A few years after the junior golf incident I was hitting balls on the range because I was getting a sponsor exemption into the Bob Hope (it was later given to Mac O’Grady before the tournament started, but that is a story for another time) and here comes Phil walking right toward me.
He was the new star on The Tour and the darling of all the fans.
“Monte, how are you?”
“Good Phil, thanks.”
“Congratulations on winning the long drive championship, how’s the rest of your game doing? Hoping to see you out here soon.”
“Thank you, I am hoping to be out here soon too. Um, Phil, forgive me for saying so, but I am surprised you are talking to me after that day we all played together.”
“Nah, I was being a punk and I deserved it, good luck this week.”
I saw him a few more times after that and he went out of his way to say hello. It is the opinion of this golfer that Phil is a class act and many of his peers don’t like him because he does what he wants and doesn’t care what other people think…and the fans love him second only to Tiger.
Good luck at The US Open Phil, but more importantly, good luck Amy on a quick and full recovery.