Arizona State leads salute to Ron Balicki
Tim Mickelson was only an 11-year-old kid in 1988, but he couldn't help but be intimidated by Ron Balicki.
"My biggest memory of him was that he was a damn tall guy and he was skinny," Mickelson, the head coach at Arizona State, said with a laugh.
"A tall, skinny guy that, for whatever reason, intimidated me. It was his height (around 6 feet 3 inches), not his intimidation factor, but I remember him being a very friendly guy that was always at the big tournaments Phil (Mickelson) was playing in, and he was the only one. He was the man. He had a monopoly at that time on college golf."
Mickelson, along with his Arizona State team and the rest of the 15-team field at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, honored Balicki over the weekend with a green ribbon on their hats. Balicki, a member of the College Golf Coaches Hall of Fame, has covered the sport at the collegiate level for Golfweek since 1983. He has been battling cancer in recent months at his home in Mount Ida, Ark.
"I've known Ron ever since my brother was playing college golf, so I know how long he's been in the sport and that he's the first person to give any media coverage to college golf," Mickelson said. "I certainly believe he's a pioneer in that regard and that he's a valuable asset from a coach's standpoint, because any press is great press, and we want visibility for our players and our programs.
"Without Ron starting that a long time ago, we still might not have any coverage. He's been a friend of mine since 1988 when I was 11 years old, and I just wanted to make sure he knew we were thinking of him this week – not just our team, but every team. I was hoping he'd get a little bit of comfort knowing that there's 110 people thinking of him in Tempe."
Arizona State, fueled by sophomore Jon Rahm's record-breaking performance, won the tournament by 20 strokes.
Mickelson tweeted after the tournament that his team dedicated the win to Balicki, who is known as "Wrong Ron" by many for his occasionally wayward tournament predictions.
"In my opinion, he has had a huge factor in college golf, and I hope other coaches feel the same way as me. We would not have the chance to have it on TV without the work that he did in getting us our press."