ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida: Phil Mickelson loved golf before he was old enough to walk and swing a club. It took him on a thrilling ride of major championships and a few spectacular crashes, eventually leading to his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Mickelson was inducted Monday with two-time major champion Sandy Lyle of Scotland, writer Dan Jenkins, British player-turned-broadcaster Peter Alliss, and four-time women’s major champion Hollis Stacy. That brought membership in the Hall of Fame to 141, nearly half of them since it moved to the World Golf Village in 1998.
It was the second straight year that a player still among the top 20 in the world ranking went into the Hall of Fame – Mickelson this year, Ernie Els in 2011. Mickelson allowed himself to pause for a night to reflect on two decades of golf, starting with his first U.S. PGA Tour win while still at Arizona State University.
Mickelson congratulated the others in his class and said: “They can attest that you can’t start fulfilling your dreams until you dream big.”
Jenkins and Alliss provided the laughs. Jenkins, who has covered 210 majors dating to the 1951 U.S. Open, is the third writer in the Hall of Fame, but the first who was alive to give an acceptance speech – or as Jenkins said, “I’m particularly pleased to be taken in as a vertical human.”
Jenkins recalled a different era of golf, when there was not such a gap between the sportsmen and the journalists. He said he wrote about 93 members of the Hall of Fame, drank with 47 of them and played golf with 24 of them, most of those rounds with his hero, Ben Hogan.
He believed his best big moment would be his funeral, and he already knew what to put on his tombstone: “I knew this would happen.”
Alliss won 23 times on the European Tour and played on eight Ryder Cup teams until he switched over to the BBC, and his straight talk and brilliant command of the language made him perhaps the most recognizable voice of golf around the world. He worked his 50th consecutive British Open last year.
He also became the first inductee to flip the bird.
He ended a wonderful tale of golf and his career with a short about the headmistress at his school, Violet Weymouth, who wrote in her final report that “Peter does have a brain, but he’s rather loathe to use it. I fear for his future.”
His parents died long ago.
“And if there is such a thing as heaven and if people do look down ... Well, Mum and Dad, here we are. Look at this lot. Look where I’ve been. Look what I’ve done. Never worked very hard at it, but it’s all fallen into place.
“And Mrs. Weymouth, if you’re there,” he held up his middle finger.
Mickelson was the last to be inducted, the biggest name of this class with his 42 wins around the world.
He was elected on the U.S. PGA Tour ballot, a career that includes the Masters three times, one U.S. PGA Championship, two World Golf Championships, eight Ryder Cup teams and every Presidents Cup team since it began in 1994.
He talked about his family as part of a timeline in golf. There were memories of his oldest daughter born after the first of his record five runner-up finishes in the U.S. Open, the blonde curls of his second daughter, Sophia, whom he told, “Daddy won!” after his first major at the Masters. He told of the 2005 U.S. PGA Championship win, how son Evan was high-fiving New Jersey state troopers.
And he paid tribute to the thousands of fans he made along the way in a career that has made Mickelson a modern-day Arnold Palmer for his go-for-broke style on the golf course and the way he makes every fan feel special by looking them in the eye or signing countless autographs.