Chris BaldwinThis Week at March 13, 2007

Mickelson and Woods' charity overpraised compared to regular rich-guy golfers

Phil Mickelson did a wonderful thing for retired NFL lineman Conrad Dobler and his family. But if you listen to the media coverage about Mickelson paying the Dobler daughter's college tuition, you'd have to assume it's the only selfless thing any golfer's ever done.

It's hard to tell if Mickelson is going to be given the Nobel Peace Prize, a Purple Heart or a pin from Tiger Woods.

Only one thing's certain: Lefty's being given way too much credit for flipping open his checkbook. Just like Tiger is getting crazily unproportional mad love for hosting a tournament that will "pay tribute to the military" (whatever that means).

It's not necessarily Tiger or Phil's fault. But that doesn't make it any more right. Our obsession with celebrity culture - and our desire to find something socially redeeming in our top athletes - turns any act of charity from them into the greatest gift in the known universe.

Who deserve the praise? The average rich-guy golfers who divert some of their money away from cigars, strip clubs and expensive Scotch to a worthy cause.

It's easy to give when you're Phil or Tiger, when there's no way you could blow it all even if you made Carrot Top your financial guru, when a team full of advisers is suggesting who you should assist. Things are much more unclear for regular rich-guy golfers.

That's why I have much more respect for a story like the one I heard out at Frenchman's Creek in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Frenchman's is one of those private luxury communities where retired CEOs frolic.

Kathy O'Brien is a regular lady who works in the Frenchman's office. Like most of us, she works hard to make ends meet. Then the unimaginable happened. Her grown daughter died of cancer, leaving two little girls without a mom and a college-tuition breadwinner. Within little time, the Frenchman's members set up a college fund, put $80,000 in it, with more to come.

Ask O'Brien about it and her eyes well up with tears of gratitude.

You can have your Phil and Tiger tales of charity PR. I'll take a story like Frenchman's, or that of an institution like San Diego Golf Academy, which is giving a 20-percent tuition break to U.S. military personnel.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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