Five wins and a lucky silver dollar
Mickelson’s bounty at Pebble Beach started with grandfather making a living there as a caddie
February 05, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- Phil Mickelson will carry a 1900 Morgan silver dollar given to him by his grandfather at Pebble Beach. (PGA TOUR)
Phil Mickelson will defend his fifth title at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am this week. His winning years so far have included 2019 (beating runner-up Paul Casey), 2012 (Charlie Wi), 2007 (Kevin Sutherland), 2005 (Mike Weir), and 1998 (Tom Pernice, Jr.).
Ultimately, though, all roads go back to 1919, the year Mickelson’s paternal grandfather, Al Santos, started as a caddie at the newly opened Pebble Beach Golf Links.
“My grandfather was one of the original caddies in the caddie yard,” Mickelson said Wednesday. “He had to quit school in fourth grade to help work and support the family. … He could carry around this silver dollar here that I have. He would reach in and touch it whenever he felt poor and it made him feel like he had money. Often times, he would go to bed hungry and not eat because he wouldn’t spend it. He just wanted to always feel like he had it.
“Our family has come a long ways since we look back at him caddying for 35 cents a loop.”
We are all a product of our ancestors, as we’re reminded weekly by the PBS show “Finding Your Roots.” And grandfathers, so influential in the lives of so many PGA TOUR pros, have been front and center lately. Cameron Champ won the Safeway Open last fall as his grandfather, Mack “Pops” Champ, watched while on hospice in Sacramento. J.T. Poston shot a final-round 62 to win the Wyndham Championship with his grandfather Charles “Doc” Cunningham on site.
Mickelson’s grandfather, who died shortly before Phil won his first major title in 2004, is always with him, in a sense, as the 44-time TOUR winner plays along this scenic coastline. This week, as he always does at Pebble, Mickelson will carry the 1900 silver dollar Al kept in his pocket and rubbed for better fortune every time he felt poor. It’s Phil’s lucky Pebble ball mark.
According to Michael Bamberger’s excellent feature on golf.com last June, Al Santos was a product of Steinbeck’s Monterey, “the son of a Portuguese Cannery Row fisherman and his Portuguese wife.” He helped the family as a caddie, often doing a double-loop, and later became a tuna fisherman, captaining his own boat with his brothers off the coast of San Diego.
To commemorate Mickelson’s five wins at Pebble Beach, all amateur participants this week will receive a replica of the silver 1900 Morgan dollar that has the same specifications as Mickelson’s treasured heirloom. A local artist, Ashley Bennett-Stoddard, created the coin, which has a diameter of 38.1 millimeters and weighs 26.7 grams.
1919: @PhilMickelson's grandfather is one of the first caddies at Pebble Beach.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 13, 2019
2019: Mickelson to compete in the U.S. Open at Pebble, with a little something special in his pocket. 🙌#TOURVault pic.twitter.com/30Anc3RUyt
Mickelson called the replica “pretty special” and said he’ll likely carry both coins this week.
“I think they’re kind of cool and it reminds me that I’ve had some success here,” said Mickelson, whose pro debut came in the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Two generations later, Phil famously gave Al a signed pin flag from each of his growing stack of TOUR wins, and Al pinned each to the kitchen wall. Their bond comes into high relief at Pebble, and as it happens, Mickelson arrives at his get-well place this week in need of some special mojo.
In his 16 starts after Pebble last season, Lefty missed the cut seven times, with a ho-hum T18 at the Masters his best result. He missed the TOUR Championship, again, and, for the first time, the Presidents Cup.
Despite boasting a slimmer physique and proclaiming to feel renewed in his energy levels, Mickelson started this season with more of the same: missed cuts at the Safeway Open, The American Express and the Farmers Insurance Open.
“I knew that I was playing well,” Mickelson said from last week’s Saudi International, where he finally saw a return to form with a T3 finish, “but it was more of a focus and visualization and some mental things that I needed to strengthen and get stronger.”
He is 49, with little left to prove, but seems to be enjoying the battle against undefeated Father Time. He boasts of higher clubhead speed than ever, and his waistline has gone positively retro thanks to regular fasts and his elimination of carbs and sugars.
Having won the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship two seasons ago, and at Pebble Beach last year, he need not strain his memory to recall better times.
“I would not be surprised if it just came together,” Stuart Appleby said on Golf Channel after Mickelson shot a final-round 67 to finish three behind winner Graeme McDowell in Saudi Arabia. And if it came together? “He would know what to do,” Appleby said.
In other words, when you’ve won 44 times on TOUR and find yourself in the hunt again despite missing your last two cuts on TOUR – well, you remember how to close. Especially at Pebble Beach, and especially when you carry that little piece of your roots in your pocket.
Does the old silver dollar have a win or two left? As Mickelson might say, you never know.