For Micheel, PGA win opened door to charity
By Stan Awtrey, PGA.com Contributor
Shaun Micheel said his victory at the 2003 PGA Championship ''defined me as a golfer.'' It also started the process of defining him as a humanitarian.
Micheel has not built on that victory as a player. In fact, that win at Oak Hill remains the only victory of his career. However, he continues to use that one shining moment to generate funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a charity for which he's raised more than $2.1 million.
The melding of Micheel and Make-A-Wish is nothing short of serendipity.
Micheel got involved with it in 2002 through a Memphis charity tournament hosted by two-time major champion John Daly. Micheel, who lives in Memphis, was eager to assist the local fundraiser and was happy to help.
''My wife (Stephanie) and I love families and we love kids and wanted to do anything we could to help,'' Micheel said.
He didn't know it, but his chance was right around the corner. Daly decided to end his involvement with the Memphis event in order to start his own charitable foundation. Daly's departure left the Make-A-Wish people scrambling to find a replacement.
''Ironically, I won the PGA Championship and it seemed like a perfect opportunity for me and them to get together,'' Micheel said.
Micheel and Make-A-Wish hosted their first tournament in 2004. They decided to take the event a different way, opting to go away from inviting celebrities (which cost thousands in expenses for flights and rooms) to placing the focus on the children who are being helped.
''We decided to make the Make-A-Wish children the team captains,'' Micheel said. ''We get 15 or 20 of them who are well enough to attend and make them the captains. I think we surprised people that we were able to raise as much money as we did without celebrities or professional golfers.
''I'm not saying people wouldn't want to play with a PGA player, but that's not what it's about. This gives people a chance to see where their money is going. That's huge.''
The fundraiser makes it a point to grant one wish each year. Last year they enabled a young man with cystic fibrosis to take his rock band to Nashville in a tour bus and record an album. This year they were able to fund a Disney cruise for a young girl.
''When we grant the wish and people see what we've done, there's not a dry eye in the place,'' said Micheel, who admitted than he often allows his emotions to seep through his eyes.
Micheel is proud that his fundraiser at TPC Southwind is the top producer for the Make-A-Wish Mid-South Chapter. The event is sold out every year and all the spots were gone in 2013 before the first committee meeting occurred. It proves they must be doing something right.
Micheel will draw more interest as a player this week at Oak Hill, where his victory shocked the golf world in 2003. He has fought through a variety of injuries; he had major surgery on his left shoulder and must deal with a troublesome right shoulder that recently required a cortisone shot.
His 2013 results haven't been up to his standards. He's played three events on the PGA Tour and is yet to make a cut, and he's missed the cut in four of five starts on the Web.com Tour. But when it comes to a return to Oak Hill, Micheel said, ''I'm looking forward to it.''
Micheel's situation has changed over the last decade. He and Stephanie have two children; she was pregnant with son Dade in 2003 and daughter Marin was born in 2007. His mother died in 2010, but his father will able to attend this time. The in-laws are coming and everyone will stay in a rented house.
It will be Micheel's first trip back to the Rochester course since 2004, when he visited in a rain-soaked event to commemorate his win. Despite the miserable conditions that day, Micheel was enticed to return to the spot on No. 18 where he struck his epic 7-iron that landed within inches of the hole and ensured his victory.
Once he reached the place where history had been made, Micheel was surprised to see a commemorative plaque marking the spot.
''I drove out to 18 that day and was like, 'Wow. I didn't know that was there,''' Micheel said. ''And I turned around and there were about 30-40 carts sitting behind the green. Somebody knew about it.''
That place has become a favorite for visitors to Oak Hill, who are eager to take their own swing at the shot. ''There are a lot of divots around that spot,'' said longtime Oak Hill PGA Professional Craig Harmon.
Visitors see the marker as a place where golf history was made. But Micheel's vision of the spot goes deeper than that. He views it as a place that opened the doors that enabled him to make life a little better for children who have been dealt a bad hand.
''It makes Stephanie and I feel very good that we're doing our part,'' he said.