HOUSTON – Phil Mickelson’s worlds of pro golf and his wife’s ongoing cancer treatment came together Sunday at the Shell Houston Open.
Mickelson, who shot a final-round 71 for a 286 total, called on Dr. Tom Buchholz, a radiation oncologist at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, to caddie for him on holes 14-16 at Redstone Golf Club.
“This man has helped us through some of the most difficult days we have been through here,” Mickelson said of Buchholz. “You cannot believe what they have done for us.”
Mickelson was followed on every hole by Dr. Kelly Hunt, the surgeon who performed Amy Mickelson’s breast cancer surgery last June.
“I think about this lady every day,” Mickelson said after a long and emotional hug with Hunt behind the scorer’s tent. “We are so lucky and so fortunate to have a place like M.D. (Anderson) in Houston. It’s just amazing what they have done.”
Mickelson arranged for dozens of tickets for hospital personnel, who are still treating his wife’s cancer during the Mickelsons' regular trips to Houston for treatment.
During a treatment visit earlier in the year, Buchholz told Mickelson he had briefly caddied in a PGA Tour event more than 25 years ago and would be happy to help out if his regular looper, Jim (Bones) Mackay, ever needed a break.
“I didn’t know anything else about it until he said, ‘Can you meet me at the (13th) green?’ ” Buchholz said.
Mackay handed Mickelson’s large staff bag to the doctor, and away they went to the tee, where Phil promptly produced three straight birdies on the next three holes.
PGA Tour regulations allow a player to change his caddie as long as it’s at the beginning of a hole.
“I told Phil not to hit it in the bunker because I might not rake it correctly,” Buchholtz said. “He is just one of the nicest men alive, and it was such a great surprise.”
“I was just waiting for my turn,” Hunt joked with Mickelson. “I’m going to work on my weight-training plan for next year.”
She carried a Masters flag that Mickelson had signed earlier. It read: “Dr. Hunt: Thanks for taking care of my family.”
Mickelson said he will be returning to Houston several times this year for Amy’s treatment. He declined a national TV interview to talk about her condition last week, and the most he would offer this week was, “She’s doing OK, thank you.”
But for one week, Mickelson said he enjoyed a break from his wife’s health struggles.
“It was nice to be here in Houston without (cancer) treatment. It was fun, because they have been so helpful and we are so lucky. I’m not sure when we have to return.”