In a career chock-full of major milestones, there is one Phil Mickelson accomplishment that has stood the test of time for three decades.
On Jan. 13, 1991, Mickelson won the Northern Telecom Open in Tucson, Arizona, as an amateur. He remains the last amateur to win a PGA Tour event.
Lefty, then 20, was a junior at Arizona State and made the 90-minute drive south to Tucson National, where he won by a shot over Tom Purtzer and Bob Tway.
Mickelson saw his one-shot lead in the final round turn into a three-shot deficit after a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 14th hole.
“I never thought I’d see anyone come back from something like that,” said Corey Pavin, who played with Lefty in the final group that day.
But Mickelson rallied with birdies on two of the final three holes. He also got some help when Purtzer double-bogeyed the final hole.
The win was the first of 44 PGA Tour titles for Mickelson, who returned to Tucson to win two more times as a professional, in 1995 and 1996. In ’96, it was again Tway who was runner-up, this time by two strokes.
Phil Mickelson won the Northern Telecom Open at Tucson National Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona, on Jan. 22, 1995, as an amateur at Arizona State. He is the last amateur to win a PGA Tour event. Photo by Kevin Warren/PGA TOUR Archive
The first-place check in 1991 was $180,000, which Mickelson could not accept as an amateur.
“Money is not a problem,” he told the Associated Press. “I’m on a scholarship and my folks help me.”
Only five other golfers have won a Tour event as an amateur. Before Mickelson, the last one to do so was Scott Verplank at the 1985 Western Open when he beat Jim Thorpe in a playoff at Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook, Illinois. Prior to that, it was Doug Sanders at the 1956 Canadian Open.
Three months after Mickelson won in Tucson, he was low amateur at the Masters. He came up short at the NCAAs a month after that but won his third individual national championship in 1992 before embarking on his pro career.
Amateurs who have won a PGA Tour event
1945 – Fred Haas, Memphis Invitational
1945 – Cary Middlecoff, North & South Open
1945 – Frank Stranahan, Durham War Bond Tournament
1948 – Frank Stranahan, Miami Open
1954 – Gene Littler, San Diego Open
1956 – Doug Sanders, Canadian Open
1985 – Scott Verplank, Western Open
1991 – Phil Mickelson, Northern Telecom Open