A Look Back With Phil Mickelson
The College Golf Connection, as part of its exclusive Feature’s section is honored to present the following Q&A with current Masters Champion and three time NCAA Individual Champion, Phil Mickelson.
This Arizona State Sun Devil’s college resume includes three individual NCAA Championships (1989, 1990, and 1992), four time First Team Ping All America, three time Jack Nicklaus Collegiate Player of the Year, three time Haskins Player of the Year, 16 individual collegiate titles and 1992 graduate of ASU with degree in psychology.
In May of 1989, Phil and his ASU teammates traveled to Edmond Oklahoma, for the NCAA Division I Championship at Oaktree Country Club. The 72 hole championship featured strong winds, a suspended third round due to thunderstorms and one of the most challenging Pete Dye courses in the country. At the completion of 72 holes, Phil completed the first chapter of his storied college career with a 17 under score of 271 to capture the 1989 individual championship (63- 65- 69- 74 - 271) .
In advance of next weeks NCAA Division I Championship at the Honors Course in Chattanooga ,Tennessee, we ask Phil to turn back the clock and share with our readers what he remembers about his freshman year at ASU and his first NCAA tournament.
CGC…..Living away from home for the first time - school, golf, social life are all things freshmen go through. What memories of that first year at school stand out in your mind?
Phil…. The biggest transition my freshman year in college was being on my own. I believe the biggest challenge a new student faces is being away from home, making decisions on your own, managing academics, athletics, possibly a job, but also managing a social life. It’s very easy to get one out of balance. It was that transition that helped prepare me for my life after college as well as the PGA Tour.
CGC…..Your 1989 ASU team was very strong with four players, including you, named All-American. What was it like stepping into a veteran team? What suggestions would you have for young players today approaching a similar situation?
Phil….. My golf team as Arizona State was very strong; we had a number of good players. What was great about that was although it might have been challenging to step in and be part of the traveling squad and play, you learned different ways every day to hits shots, to help each other. The competition, whether it was chipping or putting contests or practice rounds, pushed us to get better. Per-Ulrik Johansson, who was a very good player, and I would practice together and really push each other.
CGC….. During the 1988-89 school year you played in 14 events, including Pac 10 Conference, NCAA Regional and NCAA Championship. The time demands on college golfers are significant with travel, practice rounds, and, at that time, all 54-hole/3-day events. What advice would you have for a freshman for managing his time both at home and on the road?
Phil….. In being part of the traveling squad and missing so many days of school, it wasn’t easy to keep my grades up. It was a challenge. It was important to have somebody to take notes while you were gone and to help study for tests that were upcoming because I wasn’t able to make class all the time.
CGC….. The 1989 NCAA Championship was played at Oak Tree Country Club in Edmond, Oklahoma. Spring weather in the Midwest, strong winds and a difficult Pete Dye golf course - did you do anything different leading up to that event in your preparation?
Phil…..We got out of school a month before the NCAAs were played every year. This gave me a chance to work on my game and not have to worry about academics. That was an advantage for our team. I was able to play and practice for weeks and get my game sharp for the event.
CGC….. Looking back now 20 years, what do you remember most about your college years? If you had it to do over, what, if anything, would you do different?
Phil….. Midway through my junior year I won a PGA Tour event and I decided to delay turning pro until after I graduated. My thought process was that I couldn’t relive the college experience, and that the amount of money that I might have won over that year in a half, in the big picture, a 30-year playing career, was nominal. Looking back on that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The friendships that were developed in college have lasted a lifetime. The education and degree that I received is something I’m very proud of. It gives me credibility now when I speak on behalf of education through my Mickelson Exxon Mobil Teachers Academy. I didn’t foresee at the time how it would be beneficial, I just knew that it would be important. Now it’s given me a platform and opportunity to help increase awareness of the importance of education throughout the country.
CGC….. Finally, what are your thoughts about the NCAA Division I championship format change from a 72-hole stroke play event to a 54-hole stroke play qualifying on site, with the top eight teams then playing team match play to determine the National Champion?
Phil….. I think the changes to the format make for an exciting finish and hopefully it will attract television coverage because it’s an event I would love to watch.
The CGC would like to thanks Phil for taking time out of his schedule to share his thoughts with us. The GCAA would also like to acknowledge the Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation for their continuing support of the Phil Mickelson Freshman of the Year Awards.