by David Ball
Jacksonville attorney Glenn Cohen is arguably one of the better golfers in the local legal community, which has its share of good golfers. After all, he did finish near the top in the Gator Bowl Pro-Am golf tournament several times.
So when Cohen was playing a friendly round against a local in San Diego, and he was given an eight-shot advantage, he thought he had the match sown up. A 1-over-par 73 made the win a near certainty.
Unfortunately, this local was the No. 2-ranked golfer in the world and defending Players Champion, Phil Mickelson.
“But wouldn’t you know it, he comes in and shoots a 63,” said Cohen. “He’s a real competitor. I had to buy him lunch.”
It was one of the many memories Cohen has of the 50 or so times he’s played with Mickelson, some of those rounds in preparation for major tournaments. But it’s their nine-year relationship off the course, including work with charity organizations, that has made the most impact on Cohen.
“I can’t lie. It certainly is fun and it doesn’t do me any harm having my name associated with one of the top 15 celebrities in the world,” he said. “But it goes way past that. I really love him as a person and I love what he stands for.”
Mickelson had similar sentiments about Cohen when he was asked during a press conference before last week’s Wachovia Championship. Although, the compliments only surfaced after a few barbs at Cohen’s expense.
“I usually don’t like to admit publicly I have a relationship with Glenn Cohen,” said Mickelson, drawing a few chuckles from the press. “I think that he is a little bulldog. If you ever want anybody to represent you, he would be the guy to do it.
“He helped me many times in many situations.”
Cohen and Mickelson’s relationship began nine years ago when Cohen was representing Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Gaylord Sports Management. CEO Steve Loy was Mickelson’s golf coach at Arizona State University and has been his agent since Mickelson joined the PGA Tour.
“I did some litigation for Gaylord, and I did a good job,” said Cohen. “Phil had an issue that needed to be resolved, and I resolved it. We sort of clicked. And nine years later, I’m his lawyer on everything except his taxes and his outside business.”
Cohen said he sees Mickelson four to six times a year, although they talk on the phone often.
“As a friend, he’s loyal,” said Cohen. “I just had my fifth back surgery, and he called me every day until I got home.”
Professionally, Cohen oversees all of Mickelson’s contract work, which Cohen said is extensive for the second most endorsed athlete in the world after Tiger Woods. However, he said his most enjoyable work with Mickelson is charity groups.
In late 2003, Cohen and Mickelson wanted to raise money for military families. Cohen said he spent three months looking at 60 charities and decided to align with two of them.
Special Operations Warrior Foundation, based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, helps raise college scholarships for orphans of military special operations soldiers killed in battle. Homes for Our Troops, based in Boston, builds and renovates homes adapted specifically for severely disabled veterans.
Mickelson donated to these charities through his foundation, Birdies for the Brave, where $100 was donated for every birdie and $500 for every eagle scored. In 2006, the PGA Tour began hosting the program nationwide and has now raised millions of dollars to various charities affecting service men and women and families in every military branch.
“We did it because it needs to be done,” said Cohen, who served in the military. Mickelson’s father is also retired military.
“But Phil’s visibility and his kindness and his philanthropy go through the ceiling. We do a lot of things for charity anonymously that people never know of,” Cohen added. “He will talk about Birdies for the Brave and how wonderful it is, but he does not want to be the star. He does not want to be the focus. He gets involved because his name and face raise awareness.
“I’ve done work for a lot of high-profile athletes, and let’s just say there are none better than Phil,” added Cohen, whose client list includes fellow golfer Leonard Thompson, All-Star pitcher Bronson Arroyo and other pros, although Mickelson is still his most high-profile client, and likely the one who offers Cohen the most perks in the form of golfing expeditions at some of the most famous and storied courses in America and Europe.
Cohen said his favorite “Phil story” was from a British Open tournament several years ago when Mickelson, Cohen and family and friends rented a house near the Muirfield course and hired a cook for the week. However, the cook couldn’t cook.
“She even screwed up eggs. It was awful,” said Cohen. “So we started eating all of our meals at McDonald’s. I’m talking two or three meals a day.”
Mickelson prefers to play a different course before a big tournament, so he and Cohen played at nearby St. Andrews the Wednesday before the Open Championship. They made reservations for dinner at a known American-style restaurant, and Cohen said the excitement was palpable.
“But by the time we got to No. 17, there must have been 4,000 people following us and about 800 kids waiting for an autograph,” said Cohen. “He signed all 800 of them. It took more than two hours and we missed our reservation. He looked at me and said, ‘You know we’re going to be eating McDonald’s tonight.’”
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