Phil Mickelson is a legend in the world of professional golf; his rise to being one of the most celebrated pro-golfers in the world was a self-fulfilled prophecy that Mickelson made when he was a child. Despite some hiccups along the way, both professional and personal — Mickelson has achieved a stellar level of success that many pro-golfers aspire for.
Born in June of 1970 to Phil Anthony Mickelson and Mary Mickelson, Phil Mickelson Junior learned to play golf from his father at a young age. Although he is right handed, Mickelson learned to play using his left hand. His father introduced him to the game when he was only eighteen months old, and there did not seem to be any turning back. When he was nine years old Mickelson watched as Seve Ballesteros won the Masters Tournament at the Augusta Nationals Golf Course, and it was then that he told his mother that one day he would do the same (“About Phil” par 5).
That story, though, is only one of the many that dot his biography. As the biography posted on his website notes:
[Mickelson] ran away from home at age 3 1/2, telling neighbors he was going to the golf course; the neighbors steered him around the block and back home. He won 34 San Diego Junior Golf Association titles. He flew with his airline pilot father’s pass and his mother took a second job to help pay for his American Junior Golf Association play; he repaid his parents by winning an unprecedented and unequaled three consecutive AJGA Rolex Player of the Year awards and a scholarship to Arizona State University.
While at Arizona State University, he pursued a degree in psychology — graduating in 1992. But he placed as much attention on a professional golf career as he did on working towards his degree while at university; he officially went pro the same year he graduated college, and just before the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (“About Phil” par 9). And in 1993 he won his first title as a pro.
Since then he was won forty-two (42) PGA Tour titles, and an additional four (4) titles in international tournaments; his total money winnings from PGA tournaments is $2,154,200 as of 2015, and he is ranked as the twenty-seventh (27th) best player in the PGA (“Phil Mickelson,” PGA Tour). In addition, Mickelson has a reported annual endorsement income of forty-eight (48) million dollars (Rishe par 5).
Even with his success, Mickelson’s name has been linked with some questionable practices in the past; most notably with sports betting. In fact, he “is known for rarely shying away from a money match and his affinity for sports gambling is no secret either” (Fish par 15). Mostly Mickelson places his bets in Las Vegas and has raked in a substantial amount of money while engaging in sports betting.
However, many people — both in the media and in professional sports — are upset by the gambling practices Mickelson engages in. In 2001 Mickelson won five hundred (500) dollars from a bet from Mike Weir in the players’ lounge at the NEC Invitational after wagering $20 at 25-1 odds that Jim Furyk would hole a bunker shot; when this story broke the PGA tour reprimanded Mickelson (Fish par 16). While a minor in-house incident, with little impact, Mickelson has been associated with more controversial stories related to sports betting.
More recently he has been linked to a money laundering scandal when he transferred almost three million dollars to a middle-man. This middle-man was a part of what federal authorities called “an illegal gambling operation which accepted and placed bets on sporting events. Although federal authorities do not pursue those that place bets, the news has led to some people to question Mickelson’s judgment and his gambling habits.
Patrick Rishe, writing for Forbes, commented that as his career winds down, Mickelson’s gambling habits — and his association with illegal sports betting — might cause his sponsors to reconsider his endorsements; also, Rishe has openly asked if “PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem, might consider a suspension. There are reasons why many professional sports leagues and the NCAA has strict rules about their athletes engaging in gambling. Might this recent news inspire Finchem”.
Yet none of this seems to bother Mickelson in the least.
He keeps pursuing his game and does not appear very concerned about what his critics have to say. Speaking to reporters about the issue he said
“People are going to say things well; they are going to say things badly; they are going to say things true; they are going to say things not true. The fact is I’m comfortable enough with who I am as a person that I don’t feel like I need to comment on every little report that comes out”.
So Mickelson will keep playing golf, and keep meeting with his fans; he loves what he does, and is determined to keep playing.