In fight against cancer, smart money is on Amy Mickelson

In fight against cancer, smart money is on Amy Mickelson

Ricky Barnes has yet to start the third round.
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Amy Mickelson is one-of-a-kind, and if exuberance can get a person through breast cancer, you can expect Amy to be back in her dance-team outfit (a long-ago gig) by the PGA Championship. Phil is taking a leave from tournament golf to tend to his wife and their three kids. No surprise there. Mickelson was ready to walk away from a Monday U.S. Open playoff in 1999 at Pinehurst, had it come to that, so that he could be with Amy when their first child was born.

That child, Amanda, will turn 10 right around the Bethpage U.S. Open next month. A guess is that Phil won’t be there. A better guess is that hundreds of players and caddies and reporters and fans and Tour officials and USGA officials will be thinking of Amy. Her enthusiasm is irresistible.

If you poll the wives of Tour players, formally or otherwise, about which Tour wife today most closely follows in the remarkable tradition established by Barbara Nicklaus, Amy Mickelson is invariably the answer. She’s a superb storyteller (without being gossipy). She’s generous with advice on the best restaurants and hotels. She’s committed to various education and health causes. She makes her husband look better. Amy’s model has been Barbara, who wasn’t shy but knew who the fans came to see. Amy has a thing about not signing autographs. (Phil’s steadfast caddie, Jim Mackay, has the same policy.) But she’ll take a shy kid by the hand and bring him or her over to meet Phil.

The Mickelsons — Amy and Phil, their three children, plus assorted relatives and friends and nannies — travel large, staying together in the best hotels or in mansions rented during majors, flying on Phil’s jet. “You know Phil,” Amy has said more than once, “he’s all about the fun.”

But Amy is, too. There are large and charming gaps in her knowledge of what her husband has won and when he’s won it, but she follows him up and down the hills of Augusta and on the dull flat ground of Doral and in the cool breezes of the British Open. She has a special interest in science education and this year has been making the rounds to secondary schools that specialize in science, steering Mickelson Foundation money to them and trying to get other philanthropies to do the same.

At the Masters, this year, she and the kids were MIA for most of the week as there were various small health crises in the Mickelson home on the outskirts of San Diego. Nothing too serious. Amy dropped a meat loaf on her toe and was hobbling around. But by Saturday, she was at Augusta, and she watched her husband play an epic round of golf with Tiger Woods on Sunday. Or at least she tried to. She’s not a tall a woman, and Augusta National does not allow the little spectator periscopes that Phil’s father has been selling for years.

No matter for Amy. She and her very close friend, Jen Mackay, Jim’s wife, chatted their way through the round, got the scores through whispering spectators, and talked about kids and schools and exercise programs. She bounced right back from the meat loaf episode. She’ll deal with the hell of breast cancer privately. You can be sure that when she comes back, stamping out that disease will be another thing on her To Do list. Watch out, breast cancer. Amy’s going to wear you out.