A former Fulton athlete got the sporting thrill of a lifetime recently when he was pulled out of the crowd to carry the clubs of a pro golfer.
And not just any golfer.
Tom Buchholz caddied at the Shell Houston Open for Phil Mickelson, who won golf’s most important event, the Masters, right after that.
It was not a random event.
Buchholz studied medicine after leaving Fulton. He’s head of radiation oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. Mickelson’s wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer within 6 weeks of each other. Golf fans know that Mickelson, one of the very best pro golfers in the world, took himself off the pro tour for three months to care for them.
Buchholz is one of their doctors.
Back on the tour and in the cancer center’s hometown, Mickelson gave Buchholz and other members of the center’s staff tickets to watch the tournament.
Buchholz says he strained to watch Mickelson because he attracts a large crowd. On Sunday, he got a view that any golf fan would kill for.
“He invited me to meet him as he exited the green on the 13th hole on the way to the 14th hole,” Buchholz said of Mickelson, who he says told him, “‘Hey, Dr. B., I need your help carrying my bag for a hole or two.'”
Buchholz had caddied once as a college student for a pro who finished 10th at the Westchester Open in 1984.
He said Mickelson’s longtime caddy, Jim “Bones” Mackay, handed over his bag of clubs “and away Phil and I went to the 14th tee.”
It was supposed to last one hole. But Mickelson birdied the hole. So the golfer and his good luck charm stayed together for one more hole. Another birdie. “People were stopping me on the second hole and saying, ‘Hey are you getting tired? Can I carry that bag for a while?'”
One more hole and one more birdie and Buchholz’s second stint as a pro caddie was done.
“He’s made me out to be quite the professional caddy,” said Buchholz. “It’s more of a testimony to his skill as a golfer than my skill as a caddy.”
“Phil Mickelson is really one of the nicest people in the world and I was touched by his gesture of reaching out to thank me for being part of his life,” Buchholz said, adding, “It needed no thanks.”
A few folks in Fulton who remembered Buchholz sent him e-mails in the days following that. It conjured up good memories for the doctor, who came to Fulton as a 5th grader when his father was transferred here to run the Birds-Eye plant, and who left after 11th grade in 1979 when his father was moved again to the headquarters in Rye.
“I went through many of my formative years there, amidst the many days of snowblowing the drieway. I don’t miss that, by the way,” he said.
Buchholz played football, basketball and baseball. He worked at Angelo’s Big M and delivered flowers for Dowd’s House of Flowers.
A neighborhood friend recently visited him during a trip to Houston. He’s heard rumblings of a 30th reunion and thinks he might like to come.
“I really had a good time in Fulton. It was a special place,” he said.