PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson on progress of private course near Calgary: ‘It’s a special place’Posted: 04 Jul 2017 News
Decked out in black slacks, a purple golf shirt — complete with two sponsor logos — and his oh-so-familiar KPMG hat, Phil Mickelson looked like he was ready for the first tee.
Except, of course, for his footwear.
The PGA Tour superstar was in Calgary over the weekend to check on the progress of his design project at Mickelson National Golf Club, arriving for a meet-and-greet with media and members in a pair of grey work boots that were caked in mud from a tour of several soon-to-be-grassed holes.
“He can’t wait to get back out there,” smiled Rick Smith, Lefty’s longtime coach and now his design associate. “We’d stay up all night out there if we could.”
After all, Mickelson doesn’t just want his name on the entrance sign, the scorecard and the paycheque.
He’s passionate about leaving his fingerprints — and boot treads — all over the 18-hole private setup, the showpiece of the Harmony community near Springbank Airport.
“This is a lot of pressure, to have my name on it,” Mickelson acknowledged. “And that’s why I want it to be done right.”
That’s why he was here Saturday and Sunday.
Mickelson’s day job keeps him pretty busy, with the 47-year-old still questing to add to an eye-popping playing resume that includes five major titles and 42 total triumphs on the PGA Tour.
But the World Golf Hall-of-Fame inductee has also been keeping close tabs on the construction at Mickelson National, constantly swapping sketches with Smith as his design is carved into the dirt.
With his approval on the shapes, contours, hazards and every other detail, the hope is that about half of the assignments can be seeded this summer.
The course is slated to open in 2019.
“I have a member in San Diego that joined, bought a place and is moving up here. So the word is starting to get around,” Mickelson said. “It’s a special place. Although word is starting to come out, it’s even more so as you start to be able to visually see it. It’s hard to get that picture of dirt when it’s not graded properly. Now, you can see some of the dramatics of the holes. Some of the trees are planted. You can see some of the bunkering. You can get a better visual of how it’s going to look and feel and play when it’s grassed.”
It’s no secret the folks behind Mickelson National are hoping to eventually play host to the RBC Canadian Open but during a chat with reporters on Canada Day, the three-time Masters champion stressed that his focus is not just on providing a worthy challenge for his pals on the PGA Tour.
He repeatedly mentioned “the average guy.” He revealed that Mickelson National will have separate tee-decks at 50, 100 and 150 yards from each green for junior golfers — “Nothing melts me more than seeing kids carry their bag down the fairway” — and that he considers how his father would navigate the layout.
“What I can’t stand is for the average player to hit a ball in a bunker and not be able to get out, to take three or four or five swings at it and then pick up,” Mickelson said. “I want them to be able to finish every hole here. That makes it playable for the average guy. But once we get to the green and once we’ve helped the average guy run the ball up onto the green and given him chipping areas where he can get it onto the green, there are pins that are very difficult to get to, and that’s how we make it difficult.
“The No. 1 thing is that the average player, the high-handicapper, says ‘I really enjoyed the day. I was able to finish every hole. I was able to play and have a variety of shots and get around the golf course.’ I want him to be able to get away with some of his misses, advance the ball up by the green, putt it or bump-and-run it onto the green and make his bogey and move on. And then I want the good player to say ‘I had to play really well to shoot a few under.’ ”
The average guy can always take a mulligan.
The course-designer doesn’t have that luxury.
That’s why Mickelson wants to ensure everything is just right before the grass goes down.
“The great thing is that a lot of what he was visualizing, it’s coming to reality,” said Barry Ehlert, the managing partner for Windmill Golf Group and the man who hired Mickelson for this much-anticipated project. “Now, we get down to the details and the nuances of what can make the difference between great golf and spectacular golf. That’s what we are working on now.”