CHICAGO – Throughout their respective golf careers, KPMG Brand Ambassadors Phil Mickelson and Mariah Stackhouse have been tested on all types of grass. On Monday at legendary Soldier Field in the KPMG Windy City Skills Challenge, across a five-sport circuit, the duo went head-to-head against some of Chicago’s best professional athletes.
It was both a humbling and exhilarating time in an event that kicked off the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, June 28 – July 1, at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer, Illinois.
Joining Mickelson and Stackhouse were Chicago Bulls Point guard Kris Dunn; Chicago Bears quarterback Chase Daniel; Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty; Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher; and Chicago Bears placekicker Cody Parkey.
The event featured 90 local area juniors from three golf development organizations – PGA Jr. League, Girls in Golf Academy and LPGA/USGA Girls Golf. The attendees spent nearly three hours passing a football; attempting a field goal; putting and chipping; shooting free throws and kicking a soccer ball into a net.
“I love help growing the game of golf and this is a very important part of it,” said Mickelson. “Particularly it’s encouraging some young junior golfers here to go to the KPMGA PGA Champions and see some outstanding golfers. It may give them something to aspire to and possibly fulfilling a dream to someday playing on the tour.”
Mickelson said he has spent over two weeks mulling his much-discussed penalty in the third round of the U.S. Open. He played a moving ball on the 13th green at Shinnecock Hills.
“It took me a few days to let my anger and frustration subside to see clear that it wasn’t my greatest moment,” said Mickelson. “Since I’ve apologized, the best thing that I can do is try to promote the game in a positive way, which is why I am here today. I’m trying to get people in Chicago to come out and see the golf.
As the afternoon activities drew to a close for the juniors, the pros took over. It was soccer’s McCarty and Neaher who rose up and captured bragging rights against the field.
This week, Stackhouse will have competed in four of the five majors in women’s golf. She played in the 2011 and ’13 U.S. Women’s Opens as an amateur.
“Most of the kids didn’t know who I was, but were happy to be around me, and that’s great,” said Stackhouse, a three-time All-America at Stanford. “I’m looking forward to the championship. I think what this Championship has done is great, getting us on a lot of courses that have a great legacy, particularly on the men’s side. It is great to have the chance to play those venues, which are top tier golf courses.”
ESPN’s Michael Collins, who served as Master of Ceremonies, said he saw something special from Mickelson and Stackhouse. “They clearly enjoyed themselves and the kids returned that appreciation,” said Collins. “How could I tell Phil was into it? He was talking smack in the competition.”
It was clear that the KPMG Windy City Skills brought out the competitive juices in Mickelson, even housed in his 48-year-old frame. A younger Mickelson was often spotted in a parking lot at tournaments warming up prior to the practice range. He slipped on a baseball glove and played catch.
“A lot of the areas in golf you have to worry about are shoulders, backs and knees,” said Mickelson. “Throwing a baseball would strengthen my rotator cuff. Now, here we are about 15 years later from when I used to do that, there’s a lot better technology and biomechanics. So, I do different types of movements for rotator cuff and shoulder, but it’s the same principle and it’s allowed me to achieve some longevity in my career.”
Mickelson said “I enjoy learning the introduction to other sports. Learning to throw a football, kick a soccer ball; that coordination carries over to golf.”