Schupak: Remembering Donna Micheel

Shaun Micheel hits a shot at the St. Jude Classic in June. (file photo)

I never met Donna Micheel, mother of PGA Tour pro Shaun Micheel, but I felt like I knew her. She died this morning after an 18-month battle with lung cancer and its complications. She was 64.

Part of it was remembering how she and husband Buck, married for more than 42 years, welcomed us into their living room as CBS focused a camera on them during the final round of the 2003 PGA Championship. The networks never do that anymore and probably for good reason. But it was pretty cool when Micheel struck a dramatic 7-iron approach to 2 inches on the final hole for his crowning achievement. Buck smiled. Donna lifted her arms in cheer.

“That’s as animated as they get,” Micheel told me.

Then there was the nearly 2 hours we sat in the TPC Louisiana clubhouse in April and Shaun poured his heart out about his mom’s terminal cancer. I listened to a man tell me he didn’t want to lose his mom, not now, not yet. It was not an easy conversation to have with anyone and I wondered if I was bordering on nosy until Shaun put me at ease saying, “This is good for me. It’s cathartic.”

And so the conversation rolled on. I remember him saying, “I’m exactly like my mom. I’m the wreck of the family. I’m open and honest and wear everything on my sleeve.”

I remember biting my tongue when he told me Donna had already written her own obituary. He told me how he called his mom everyday from the road. She lived 3 miles away and when he was home he escorted her to her treatments.

He spoke with such heartfelt affection about his mom that when I wrapped up the interview I felt compelled to call mine and tell her I loved her.

Donna was too weak to come watch him nearly win his hometown tournament, the St. Jude Classic, where Shaun finished a shot out of a playoff. When he shared the lead after the first-round of the U.S. Open, he told his mother’s story to a worldwide audience with eloquence.  He said he was playing for her. Then he went out on Father’s Day and made a double eagle on Pebble Beach’s No. 6. Sorry Buck, that ball was for mom. He ordered a special case for it on the Internet. I bet that meant a lot to her.

I remember a lot from that day I listened to Shaun tell me about Donna. All these months later what I remember most is him wondering, “Have I hugged her enough?”

That’s when I got a knot in my throat. Knowing Shaun, something tells me he did. 

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