Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan of professional golf. But I am a fan of sports, winners, and leaders who make a difference. That makes me a fan of Phil Mickelson, who yesterday won the Open Championship in Scotland. This was Phil’s 5th major championship. One of the great things about this win is that it comes only a couple months after another 2nd place finish at the US Open, where he was in the lead on the final day. Phil put that disappointment behind him and rose to the occasion on the last day yesterday to come from behind to win his first Open Championship. It was a pleasure to watch and to root for Phil.
But after saying all that, this is not a blog about golf or even one about sports. This is about leadership and Phil Mickelson is a leader who is committed to making a difference. He does this in many ways including the Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation that supports various youth and family initiatives. He also in involved many other charities showing he understands the importance of giving back. He is a servant leader.
Phil more than anything understands “what matters most.” In 2009, Phil’s wife Amy was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Phil took time off the tour to be with her and his family. Phil seems to be a very good husband. He seems to understand that his number one role in life is husband, not golfer. It is so nice to see Amy waiting for him after most of the tournaments. As they embrace you can really see the love there.
Phil also understands that his next most important role is father. In 1999, Phil was playing in the US Open. Amy was pregnant with their first child who could come at any time. Phil play the tournament, but made it clear if her got word from Amy that the baby was coming, he would leave no matter where he stood on the leader board. It just so happens that he was in contention. He actually was battling for the lead. It came down to the last hole. If Payne Stewart hadn’t birdied that last hole there would have been a playoff the next day, which was when Amy went into labor. Instead, Phil finished second and was able to be there without any questions from the media.
This year, Phil was again faced with a dilemma. The day before the first round of the US Open he went to his daughters 8th grade graduation in California. This made him have to take a red eye flight back to Pennsylvania to play his first round at 7 AM. There was a lot of criticism for this, even though that first round was his best one of the tournament.
It is funny how people can criticize any person for doing the right thing. How many children never see their fathers either because they have left completely or because they are working all the time “for them”? There are plenty of athletes that deserve criticism for the way they live their lives. Many of them do not understand that they are leaders and other people are watching them. Those people will become like those leaders. I for one hope that more people follow the lead of Phil Mickelson.
Golf is a sport that has been dominated over the last 15 years by Tiger Woods. I know a lot of people root for Tiger because he is the best talent. But I will continue to root for Phil Mickelson because he is one of the best people, the best leaders out there. He “gets” it. He chooses to live a life of significance and that is admirable. That is a role model.