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BACKGROUNDER

Tina Mickelson is a PGA Professional and an internationally recognized golf instructor and analyst.  She has appeared regularly on the Golf Channel and covered the LPGA Tour for CBS.  She has written prolifically about the game through her widely syndicated column “Professional Golf Tips with Tina Mickelson” and is currently the Editor-At-Large and Local Golf Expert for San Diego Magazine. 

 Tina has applied her profound technical knowledge of the golf swing and overall approach to the game in her role as Ambassador for Callaway Golf and Ambassador for The Santaluz Club in San Diego, CA.  She is often sought out for her professional input, for example, helping Dr. Deepak Chopra edit his book, Golf For Enlightenment. She can also be seen in his movie, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, which is based on his best-selling book. Also specializes in corporate outings, speaking engagements, and group events. 

THE MICKELSON-TOPACIO STORY

My dad has always been an avid golfer and as children he made the game accessible to us without pushing or forcing it on us. It was always such a fun way to spend time with my dad and brothers. As I grew older I realized that, as much as I loved to play the game, I actually got more joy out of watching someone else get excited about their own golf shot than hitting a good shot myself.

That is when I decided teaching the game would suit me better than trying to play the game professionally. I thank my dad every chance I get for not pushing us as children, which would have lead to either burn out or too much pressure. He simply allowed each of us to establish our now relationship with and love for the game on our own terms and in our own time. As a result, all three of us have made golf a career choice in one form or another.

Thank you, Dad!

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You wake up in the morning — what’s the passion that drives you?

Coffee. Without hesitation. I naturally wake up very early and taking that first sip of Columbian goodness in the quiet hours before the craziness of the day begins is a slice of Heaven. I love any type of creativity including photography, writing, new ways of explaining and implementing golf instruction, creative golf shots, different and fun things to do with my kids (son is 7 and daughter is 5), different culinary dishes in the kitchen (which is more often a failure than success but it’s still fun). In a nutshell, I love to find new and unique ways of doing everyday activities.

You grew up as the sister to one of golf’s all-time great players. What was family like growing up together?

We’ve always been a very competitive family. I love them more than life, but I would throw them down a flight of stairs to beat them at something. We all have that in common. One of my fondest “contests” was the obstacle course my dad would set up for us in the house when my mom went to PTA meetings. He would time us as we ran through the house, jumping over furniture and climbing under his contraptions. We had a chin up bar in one of the doorways and I would beg him to make us do chin ups as part of the course. They were easy for me and for Phil they were — um — not. Maybe because it was one of the few things I was actually better at, it always brought me great delight to actually see him struggle at something.

How much golf do you play and generally where?

I play as much golf as I possible can but how much and how often varies greatly. I might play 3 times in one week and then go 3 weeks without playing. I’m a PGA Golf Ambassador for both The Santaluz Club in San Diego and Callaway Golf. I’m thankful that the teaching portion of my job entails being either on the practice tee or actual golf course. Even though I might not be playing a full round, I am demonstrating shots and making golf swings so I’m at least around the game just about every day.

San Diego has evolved considerably from years ago when it was chiefly defined as a Navy and Marine operations area. What are the most under-valued dimensions of the area you would mention to those who have either never been or only been once or twice?

We have an amazingly diverse topography which lends to many different micro climates and offers a vast array of golf course layouts.

From our downtown/gaslamp district you are a 20 minute drive, depending on which direction you head, to just about every type of layout of golf course you could ever want.

The Farmer’s event has been a mainstay in the greater San Diego area for many, many year. What makes the event stand apart in your mind?

 I love the fact that the public can play the golf course right after the event and get a taste of what the course conditions were like for the professionals. Golfers have been known to sleep in their cars in the parking lot so they can be one of the first groups out in the morning. I love that kind of passion for the game.
Amazingly, Phil has won the event three times. How significant were the victories given your family roots in the area?

The memories of this golf course run deep. There is always such tremendous support here from the community and it means a lot not only to Phil but to the whole family.

And even though his fans are amazing everywhere he goes, it’s extra special to win in your hometown in front of long time family, friends and community.

The major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA TOUR, LPGA — are all seeking ways to grow the game. This is especially so for Millennials, women and minorities. If you were advising them what would recommend be the game plan to be successful in bringing more people to the game?

The game of golf needs to be as accessible as possible and I’m really excited about what TGA Premier Golf is doing in regards to that. They have a variety of after school programs where children can learn the game right there in the comfort and convenience of their own school with their friends. Parents don’t have to worry about transportation to the golf course and equipment is provided. As the junior golfers improve and grow, TGA offers incredible support in their golf journey.

Another program I’m really loving right now is Future Champions Golf. They provide affordable entry fees to over 110 junior golf events and membership is not required. This makes it easy and reasonable for junior golfers of all ages and skill levels to compete against each other as they grow their passion for the game together.

You can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?

The word golf would no longer be used as a verb — such as — “I am going to golf today.” I am old fashioned that way. Golf is not a verb — it’s a game. We don’t say, “I’m going to football today,” or “I’m going to soccer today.” We play golf, we don’t golf. I cringe a little when people say it. My husband says it, God love him, and since it is very low on the “pick-your-battles” spectrum, I never correct him but a little piece of my inner golf purism gets chipped away every time I hear it.

Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?  Also — if you were giving advice to those getting started with their careers — what would it be?

I was working with Deepak Chopra on his book, “Golf for Enlightenment” when I was facing some serious life situations. He sat down with me in his office and calmly said, “Don’t try to kill a mosquito with a nuclear bomb when a mere fly swatter will do the trick.” I never forgot that. He also taught me how important it is to put people first. I’ll never forget how, in the middle of a jam packed schedule, this man put everything aside to talk to me and just sit. We actually did more sitting than talking and it was comforting beyond words. What he said to me without using words was, “You are important to me. Everything else is minutia. People are what matter.”

There have been more instances than I can count where I have remembered that and acted accordingly because of that experience.

You’ve got one place to play golf — where would it be — and who would be the three other people playing in your group?

My dream would be to play Augusta National with my dad and two brothers with my mom, husband and kids riding in golf carts along with us while Phil described his thoughts, club selection and execution of each hole of the last day of the 2004 Masters as we played the golf course together. There would be a photographer and videographer with us to document the day so we can pass that down to our kids and grandkids. Heck, if we’re really reaching, my grandfather (who is no longer with us) would be front and center and he can explain how he kicked that ball into the hole from Heaven on the 18th green of the last day for the win.

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