It always started the same.
Each round of golf with the man who called himself my second father for a number of serendipitous reasons, would see his group gather for what appeared a serious talk before announcing there would be “nearest the pins on the par-3s, club throwing at the 8th …” and on he would go with the routine.
Golf was a game to be enjoyed, laughed at, but most importantly shared with friends for Phil Doherty, my actual father’s best friend and a huge influence on my life in golf who passed away this week.
The game at the highest level was to be enjoyed in a different way. Drinks and merriment at a tournament site (sometimes too much like the time he yelled about forgetting his hat unknowingly during Peter Lonard’s backswing) and with an occasional wager to be placed.
"Many in the field at Southern Hills would do well to laugh at themselves the way ‘Lucky Phil’ did when making a less than perfect swing on the course this week." - Jimmy Emanuel.
Given his outlook on the game, it is once again a touch of serendipity that his passing comes the week of one of the game’s majors.
Many in the field at Southern Hills would do well to laugh at themselves the way ‘Lucky Phil’ did when making a less than perfect swing on the course this week. It seemed to work too, the man who at times couldn’t hit the side of the barn with a sand wedge making a hole-in-one at his beloved Bonville and an eagle two on the 3rd at Concord during his golfing life.
For the rest of us simply watching the PGA Championship this week, the reminder that it is just a game even though those playing it at Southern Hills do so at an elite level and somewhat for our entertainment is timely.
We can become personally invested in how golfers perform, but at the end of the day the common thread whether Phil Mickelson or Phil Doherty is golf, a pursuit to be enjoyed.
Personally, I wouldn’t be involved in the game the way I am, and still able to find love in a sport that has beaten me up too many times to count, without the man I jokingly called “Dad” and his support and attitude towards it.
Golf for me won’t be the same moving forward, because I will use it to remember one of most genuine people, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and his stupid jokes that I heard so many times they have swirled in my head word-for-word constantly since he passed.
And I made my tips for the PGA this week with the knowledge that I wouldn’t get my weekly text message critiquing who I had chosen and why from someone who loved tournament golf for what it was, entertainment.
I imagine wherever we go after death there is an event where the golfers play on the final morning of a major championship, like at so many clubs around the world. Knowing Phil, he will be standing on the 1st tee somehow grouped with Peter Thomson, Seve Ballesteros and Arnold Palmer running through his gag list of events for the day and making them laugh. If there is a silent auction to raise money after the golf, he will also buy something he has no need at overs just to help.
And this time it will be one of them who falls for his yellow Gatorade on their ball prank that will have them doubling over in laughter as the PGA plays out and he watches on ready to tell me once again I have no idea what I am talking about despite being paid to watch golf.