Although he didn’t make the cut for this year’s Masters, Phil Mickelson is known for his powerful left-handed golf swing and contagious charisma. But there are a few things about Mickelson that many don’t know.
Phil Mickelson is a proud family man. And if you meet him in person, you’ll quickly learn that he’s unashamed to tell you so.
Mickelson has won 42 events on the PGA Tour, including five major championships: three Masters titles (2004, 2006, 2010), a PGA Championship (2005), and an Open Championship (2013).
But despite Mickelson’s unparalleled success, the road for this famous American golfer hasn’t been easy.
Philip Alfred Mickelson was born on June 16, 1970, to parents Philip Anthony Mickelson, (an airline pilot and former American naval aviator), and Mary Mickelson. Phil Mickelson Jr. was raised across San Diego, California and Scottsdale, Arizona.
Although right-handed otherwise, Mickelson golfs left-handed. Growing up, young Phil attentively watched his right-handed father hit balls before it was his turn.
After watching his father’s correct swing fundamentals for so long, little Mickelson wound up mirroring his style — thus, becoming a left-handed golfer and gaining the famous nickname, “Lefty.” When Phil Sr. tried to move him to a right-hand swing, it just simply wasn’t meant to be.
“After the third time” (left-handed), Phil Sr. said, “This swing was unlike anyone’s I’ve ever seen for someone that young. We weren’t going to fool around and change his swing.”
Mickelson also thanks his maternal grandfather, Al Santos, for his love and passion for golf. And Santos was quite the legend to look up to.
Mickelson’s grandfather, Al Santos, was born in 1906 and was raised in a tiny house in Monterey, California, within walking distance of San Carlos Cathedral. He was born into the family business of fishing. Al once recalled that he had to wear cardboard inserts to cover the holes in the soles of his shoes.
“His parents couldn’t buy him shoes,” Mary Mickelson, Al’s daughter and Phil’s mother, said, “so that’s why he started caddying.”
Al would hustle to get to the course early just so he could walk two loops a day, making 25 cents per bag. When the Pebble Beach Golf Links debuted, Santos was among the first caddies there. However, Al Santos wouldn’t get to play golf seriously until his 60s. He went to work for his father in the fishing industry after eighth grade and eventually moved to San Diego to form his own fleet.
Mary Mickelson shared, “If you knew my dad… you’d be able to pick him out. He was scruffy and tough, but he lived by the rule that you don’t cheat anyone, you don’t lie, and you treat everyone the way you want to be treated.”
While Al was incredibly proud of his young grandson’s astounding accomplishments, he cautioned Mickelson against greed and boastfulness.
Mary Mickelson shared: “He used to say to Philip, ‘You have all these athletes, all of these rich people who let it go to their heads. Just because you can play golf, you’re not any better than the person standing next to you. You have to be a good person, regardless of how much money you make.’”
Mickelson graduated from University of San Diego High School in 1988 and went on to attend Arizona State University on a golf scholarship.
During his time at ASU, Mickelson became the face of amateur golf in the United States capturing three NCAA championships and three Haskins Awards (1990, 1991, 1992) as the outstanding collegiate golfer. With three individual NCAA championships, Mickelson shares the record for most individual NCAA championships alongside golf great Ben Crenshaw.
In 1990, Mickelson also became the first golfer with a left-handed swing to win the U.S. Amateur title. Mickelson secured his greatest achievement as an amateur in January 1991, winning his first PGA Tour event, the Northern Telecom Open, in Tucson.
But perhaps the most life-changing event of Mickelson’s time at ASU took place off the green. Shortly after he graduated in 1992, a beautiful Junior cheerleader by the name of Amy McBride, caught young Mickelson’s attention.
When Mickelson finally met Amy, he told her he was a pro golfer, she thought he meant he was ‘a pro in a golf shop.’ Little did she know, he would go on to become one of the most world-renowned golfers of all time.
On their first date, the adorable pair played tennis. Afterwards, Mickelson took a leap of faith and invited Amy to the first tournament — of many — that he would play in: the Celebrity Pro-Am in Palm Springs, California. From that point forward, the two were inseparable.
Four years after their first date, the beautiful couple finally tied the knot. Today, Mr. and Mrs. Mickelson have been happily married for over 20 years.
In 1999, while in a neck-and-neck struggle with the late Payne Stewart at the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Phil shocked the golf world by announcing that he would walk off the course without a second thought if his expectant wife gave birth during the tournament. Mickelson’s dedication of putting his “family first” was a hot topic throughout the tournament.
The Mickelsons’ oldest daughter, Amanda Brynn, was born the day after Mickelson won runner-up in the U.S. Open to Payne Stewart in 1999.
Immediately after accepting his trophy, Stewart famously embraced Mickelson and announced, “You’re going to be a great father.” Amy said that Stewart’s winning was ‘meant to be’ as he tragically passed away a month later in a freak plane accident.
Amy described the roller coaster of emotions after her hubby came in second: “It was very, very emotional watching it. Payne makes this big putt at the end and it was kind of surreal. It never occurred to me that Phil wasn’t going to win. So that was hard.
But as we all know, Payne was the epitome of class at that moment. He walked over and said all those beautiful things to Phil about being a father at the same moment he was winning a major championship. It was incredible.”
In 2001 — two years after the birth of their first daughter, the Mickelsons welcomed a second beautiful baby girl named Sophia.
In 2003, the beautiful little family faced a horrifying scare when the birth of their third child, Evan, nearly took Amy’s life.
During birth, Amy ruptured an artery in her uterus and little Evan didn’t breathe for the first seven minutes, but thankfully, the two miraculously made it through.
Over the years, Mickelson’s loyalty and ‘family first’ motto has remained true. And at every competition, his proud family stays close-by, watching his every move, and anxiously awaiting the moment they can give their amazing daddy a big hug — whether he wins or loses.
Mickelson has never paid attention to the negative media regarding his devotion to his family above all else. But it’s become apparent over the years that golf comes second to Mickelson’s family — just the way the good Lord intended it to.
But life hasn’t always been easy for the beautiful Mickelson family. In the summer of 2009, Phil’s wife — his biggest supporter and cheerleader, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Just a few weeks later, Mickelson’s mother, Mary – named the March of Dimes Mother of the Year in 1998 – was also struck with breast cancer.
Overwhelmed with grief, Mickelson took a voluntary break from the sport as he and his father supported the most important women in their lives.
“As a professional golfer, competing in major championships, and winning them, is my main objective. But I’ve always said family is my number one priority,” Phil said in announcing his decision at the time.
“Early on, he told the press that sometimes he’d be driving and just start crying,” Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, Mickelson’s caddie going on 20 years, told Parade Magazine. “That’s an amazingly powerful thing for him to say. Part of why he’s successful is that he plays completely without fear. He’s a bulletproof kind of golfer. So for him to say that speaks to how incredibly scary this entire experience was.”
Mickelson’s fans rallied support around the struggling family. And thankfully, Amy survived and made it to the 2010 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, the following April for one of the most incredible moments in Masters history as Mickelson won his third green jacket.
After Mickelson completed his victory with a 16-under performance, the triumphant couple cried tears of joy as they embraced behind the 18th green.
He shared, “To have her share this moment, share the joy of winning on 18 [at the Masters] and share this with my kids, is something that we’ll look back on the rest of our lives. It means so much to us to be able to share this type of jubilation.
My family has reduced the effect of my career on my self-esteem. When I’m with them, they make me feel special regardless of how I play.”
But the success of that victory was shaken once again with struggles for the Mickelson family. This time, it was his health that would suffer.
Before the season’s last major tournament at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Mickelson announced he had been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.
“Amy and I have always said we wanted to grow old together. We just didn’t know old was going to be 38 and 40,” he told Parade Magazine.
It was a whirlwind year for the Mickelsons, but under the watchful care of doctors and with the help of medication, Mickelson began playing full time again — and winning.
But in 2012, health struggles hit the Mickelson family once again when their middle child — 10-year-old Sophia, fainted and suffered a seizure while at school as Phil Mickelson was playing in the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California.
Amy Mickelson shared, “It’s been a rough week, but you get through it. She’s been a trooper. She’s held up pretty well.”
Little Sophia eventually made a full recovery, and no further announcements were made regarding her health.
Despite all of their battles over the years, Phil and Amy consistently show a deep appreciation for the military and have made it their priority to care for others. Together, the dynamic duo supports several charities including the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Homes for Our Troops, and Birdies for the Brave.
Mickelson shared, “Family is everything to Amy and me, and this is our way of helping families in need stay together and grow strong even after the loss of a parent. Birdies for the Brave is an opportunity to salute the men and women who have given their lives on our behalf around the world and to let their families know their sacrifices won’t be forgotten.”
Phil Mickelson has earned three coveted Green Jackets, but he doesn’t let it go to his head, nor does he consider that his greatest success in life.
Though he didn’t make the cut for the Masters this year, I’m sure Mickelson isn’t sweating it. With his beautiful family by his side, Mickelson remains the happiest man alive.
Thank you, Phil Mickelson, for reminding America what a real man looks like. Your sincere love and devotion to your wife, your pride and joy in your children, and your ability to prioritize what’s really important in life, sets you apart shoulders above the rest. Phil Mickelson’s life is an example we can all learn from. Please share if you agree!