On the 18th hole of a competitive afternoon and the 73rd hole of the Mexico Championships, two past recipients of the prestigious Haskins Award gave golf fans around the world a glimpse of the game’s past and future.
The tournament came down a playoff late Sunday afternoon. Only two golfers survived: Phil Mickelson, who hadn’t won on the Tour since 2013; and Justin Thomas, the winner of four individual PGA titles in 2017.
Mickelson represents the past. Thomas is the present and future.
In common they are among the 47 winners of the an impressive award named for the late Fred Haskins, a legendary British golfer who served 34 years as club pro at the Country Club of Columbus until his death in 1981. Since 1973, the award has been presented to the most outstanding collegiate golfer in the United States as determined by a vote of college golfers, coaches and the golf media.
Overseeing the selection process are members of the Haskins Commission — a group primarily composed of men and women from Columbus, Ga., who want to preserve the values of amateur golf and an obscure man who taught generations of young people those standards.
Mickelson, the talented lefty from Arizona State, won the award in 1990, 1991 and 1992. He joined Ben Crenshaw of the University of Texas as the only three-time recipients of an award that is called the Heisman of golf.
Thomas received the honor in 2012. becoming the first golfer from the University of Alabama to receive a Haskins. A year ago, he burst on to the big stage by winning four Tour events, including the PGA Championship. At the age of 24, he already has nine professional wins.
Thomas emerged at the same time Mickelson found himself mired in the deepest slump of his storied career. Early in Thomas’ time at Alabama, the gifted left hander had taken time to serve as a mentor to the Kentucky native.
So he probably wasn’t shocked to see Thomas sink what might turn out to be the shot of the year.
His beautiful eagle putt earned Thomas a spot in the playoff on Sunday and could have given him a walk-off victory. Only Mickelson didn’t wilt as he showed the world that his game is coming back after nearly five years without adding a trophy to his crowded shelf of honors.
“What a week,” Thomas told reporters. “It would be easy to be upset about losing the playoff but I can’t believe I even had a chance. Hats off to Phil, dude has grinded his ass off the last few years to be back in the winner’s circle. I’m happy for him.”
Whatever happened, it would have been an opportunity for a Haskins Award recipient to win another Tour event. To date, they have recorded more than 291 championships, including 28 Majors. Recipients have also competed in 42 Ryder Cups.
The 2017 Haskins Award winner was Braden Thornberry of Ole Miss. Visit Haskinsaward.com for the complete list of past recipients.