By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
On the surface, this year’s U.S. Open lacked the drama and flair of most of golf’s major championships. First, it rained…a lot…causing multiple interruptions and pushing most of the final round to Monday. And the leaderboard, populated for the most part by players known but to devout golf fans, had about as much flair as a silver mini-van with dual sliding doors. Tiger was never really in contention and while Phil Mickelson grabbed a share of lead on the back nine of the final day, he faded on the last few holes and finished second, again. Actually, Mickelson, who’s never won the darn tournament, finished second for the fifth time at the U.S. Open. Unlike his prior near misses however, Mickelson won’t be criticized (as much) for a lack of shot execution or poor strategy, but applauded for his courage and the message he carried throughout the weekend. Just a few weeks before the Open, Mickelson’s wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a brief hiatus from the tour while he and his family got their arms around the diagnosis and treatment plan, Mickelson returned in time for the Open for what was surely a much-needed distraction.
According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer. More staggering, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be afflicted with some form of the disease in their lifetimes. Seriously. I have to admit, I knew cancer was prevalent, but those figures are shocking. The reality behind them is it is a near certainty all of us will be touched by cancer in our lifetimes, be it directly or through a loved one. Breast cancer happens to be one form that instantaneously boils my blood. It took my mother-in-law. I miss her every stinking day. And that’s not the only time cancer and my family have intersected. Frustratingly that makes me, well, not much different than a lot of you or, for that matter, Phil Mickelson. There are too many families in our County and millions across our nation with their own stories “starring” one form or another of this rampant disease. But thanks to the openness of families like the Mickelson’s, cancer remains in our collective crosshairs. Through awareness and persistence, maybe, just maybe, we can drastically change for the better the meaning of a cancer diagnosis for our children.
With that thought and with all due respect to Lucas Glover, the guy who ultimately won the tournament, the indelible image from this U.S. Open will be the pink ribbon on Mickelson’s hat. Here was Mickelson, who’s often called the people’s champ, competing at Bethpage Black, known as the “people’s country club”, while raising awareness of our battle against, what is in many ways, the people’s disease. Few of us can relate to the lifestyle of an elite athlete or playing in one of golf’s major championships, but too many of us can relate to that pink ribbon. Best wishes to you Phil in this trying time. More importantly, get well Amy Mickelson. United we stand – rich or poor, black or white, pro golfer or weekend hack – for a cure.
Extra Point: Forgive this brief foray into pop culture. As a child of the late 70’s and 80’s I have to touch on the recent loss of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. Like so many boys of my generation, Fawcett was the first woman that quickened my pulse and gave me that previously unfamiliar fluttery, gooey feeling inside…oh the power of that smile and flip of that feathered hair. Jackson was my generation’s Elvis or Sinatra. In the early 80’s he made MTV an equal rival to ESPN on my cable dial (or old-school converter box). To this day it is practically impossible to hear “Billy Jean” and not at least tap my foot…if not vigorously shake everything the good Lord gave me. Farrah, age 62, and Michael, age 50, left us much too early. June 25th, 2009: a melancholy day and one that left me feeling noticeably older than the day before.
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