Amid the electricity during the final round of the 2009 Masters, Amy Mickelson kept moving strategically ahead of the huge gallery that was following her husband and Tiger Woods. Standing near the ninth tee while the twosome was on the eighth green, she told an acquaintance about her big job for the week.
Their three young children all were sick. "I had to tell them, 'You can't go near Daddy,' " she said at the time. Yes, her job had been to protect Mickelson from germs.
His run fell short that day, but he did win a year later, inspired by the fact that Amy and the kids were there. That she was able to be a wife and mom after a daunting year of treatment for breast cancer helped him win the green jacket, he said.
Those two unforgettable April Sundays in Augusta pointed out an axiom as vital to golf as "keep your eye on the ball:" The game is known for being handed down by dads playing with their kids, but it is the moms who really make it go.
The link between motherhood and golf is as strong as it ever has been. Annika Sorenstam retired as the No. 1 player on the LPGA Tour because she wanted to be a mom (she had a girl last September). Lorena Ochoa, Sorenstam's successor as world No. 1, retired last month at 28 in part because she wants to be a stepmother to her new husband's children from a previous marriage.
As Morgan Pressel won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship, at 18 becoming the youngest women's major champion, she was in tears when she said, "I know my mother will always be with me . . . I know she's proud of me."
Pressel is deeply involved in fundraising to battle breast cancer, which claimed her mother's life when Morgan was 15. The teenager marked her major triumph by bringing her grandmother along for the Nabisco's traditional jump into the greenside lake.
Major champions Fred Couples, Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink this week told PGATour.com that their mothers all either went back to work or worked overtime to pay for their sons' lessons and entry fees. The golfers' fathers were working so the moms had to drive them to junior tournaments.
Amy Mickelson has been a standard bearer for golf moms for years. Her husband's 2005 autobiography, "One Magical Sunday," is as much about the fact that she almost lost her life giving birth to their son Evan in 2003 than about Mickelson's 2004 Masters win. A specialist had to be called for emergency surgery after the delivery caused a tear in her uterus. Later that year, she gave Phil a huge career pep talk that he later said helped him win his first major the following April.
But even that didn't compare with the emotions this year. Amy said she had not dared to show up at Augusta National until the final moments. "I just wanted him to focus on winning the Masters and not worry if I was sick, out here walking around and not doing well," she said outside Butler Cabin last month, adding that she watched most of the week on TV with the children. "I had my blanket and my jammies," she said.
Her husband left with the green jacket. "Amy and I were talking these last couple weeks about how glad we were that she was there, that the kids were there, that we could look back on that," he said recently. "And to have that together given what the past year has brought, it just made it probably the most special tournament win that I've had."
It was special, too, because his mom, Mary, was there after her own year of combating breast cancer. Mary has been intrinsic to Phil's golf career, going back to the day when he skipped out on a huge extended-family dinner to play at a nearby course. She and her husband found their son on the third hole, drove him home, scolded him, then heard him cite Ben Hogan on how practice leads to greatness.
"That struck a chord with me," she wrote in Mickelson's book. "And Phil never did get punished."