First Cut: One For The Aged
An inside look at Phil Mickelson’s PGA Championship win
Most people assume that watching Phil play and Tim caddie on Sundays when in contention is an enjoyable family affair, much like a Super Bowl party. Sounds nice. As it turns out, watching Sunday rounds when Phil is in contention, especially during the week of a major, is not what I consider to be a relaxing Sunday.
It’s not pretty. It’s not graceful. It’s messy and loud and emotional and exhausting. And it’s awesome. At least it was on this particular Sunday, May 23, when we watched Phil become the (ahem) oldest player to win a major. As his older sister, can I just say, “ouch”?
When most viewers watch a telecast, they simply see what is going on in front of them … you know, the here and now. But those close to the athlete (doesn’t matter what sport) see something completely different. They see the unimaginable amount of practice that has taken place and wonder if it will pay off this week. They are aware of the midnight brainstorming sessions in an effort to reach the next level. They know of secret back soreness or knee issues or recent food poisoning. And then anything plaguing them mentally is a whole other thing altogether. You don’t just watch. You feel. And I’m talking all the feels.
When I watch Phil play, I see more than the guy on the tube hitting bombs and flexing his calves. I see a kid who used to spend hours practicing every spare minute he could find. I see the brother I used to trade Halloween candy with, the five-year-old who ran away from home because our parents wouldn’t drive him to the golf course, the teenager who went to bed early on a Saturday night instead of going to a party because he had an early tee time, and the uncle who sends my kids videos of himself encouraging them to eat their vegetables and listen to their mother.
From my vantage point, the view is quite different than most. And so is the viewing experience.
The family group text starts early in the round and changes direction as things unfold.
Mom: What’s up with all this talk about how OLD he is?
Me: I know, right? I think I’m developing arthritis just by mere power of suggestion.
Mom: Then how do you think the MOM feels?
Then we both “bahahaha” until he hits a bad shot and suddenly all goes silent … until a good shot. And then comes a text that includes something like “yahoo!” or “whew!” And so it continues.
ON THIS PARTICULAR SUNDAY,
May 23, there was an eerie silence the last few holes. I’m not sure if we were all just holding our collective breath, were too nervous to move, were soaking it in or caught up in the emotion of it all. But once that final putt dropped, we all let out the huge breath we were holding and then when Phil and Tim hugged, the floodgates burst open and I found myself in a puddle of happy tears. A group text from our mom followed that read: Your father and I plan to meet the plane when it lands tonight. Who’s in? Now, you need to understand our mom. She’s fun and funny and loves a good joke. And it doesn’t matter if you just made history and became the oldest golfer to win a major. She’ll take advantage of that opportunity like a champ. She grabbed her “old lady mask” that she has had for years as part of a costume and drove 45 minutes at 1:30 a.m. to greet Phil’s plane upon returning home after the win. She said she wanted to meet “the old guy.” She’s a riot, man.
Then there’s our dad, who is the sweetest, gentlest and most patient man on the planet. His texts during a telecast are either one-liners or a single emoji because he has better things to do than jibber-jabber while he’s trying to watch a golf tournament. My parents usually take their landline phone off the hook (yes, they still have one) when watching a final round because… again, jibber-jabber. So when I couldn’t get through after the final putt dropped on Sunday, I zipped down to their house (which is only two miles away) and pounded on the door so we could enjoy a group hug in person. My husband and kids were busy celebrating with ice cream.
My parents are known for leaving their Christmas lights up all year. When something noteworthy in the family occurs, my parents turn on the lights to alert the neighbors that we have reason to celebrate. Then phone calls start pouring in the next morning as neighbors eagerly ask my parents what all the excitement is about.
On this particular Sunday night, those Christmas lights seemed brighter than usual. And everyone knew the reason. That Monday morning, instead of phone calls asking why the lights were on, there were phone calls of congratulations.