CARMEL – The recent lack of sleep, even a bit of nervous tension stems from worldwide attention Alan Shipnuck has received after excerpts from his book on Phil Mickelson were released earlier this year.
The award-winning writer wanted to write in his words a lively book. Yet, he had no inclination of the magnitude that Mickelson’s honesty would create in the golf world.
“I feel like it has spun out of control,” Shipnuck said. “The intensity and energy is a lot. When you release a book, you want people to know about it. I think I achieved that. But I have some mixed emotions. ”
The 1991 Salinas High graduate and Carmel High assistant girls basketball coach was greeted by a large gathering earlier this week for a book signing of his soon-to-be-released book “Phil: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar ”at The Grill at Point Pinos in Pacific Grove.
Since releasing an excerpt from the book on Feb. 18, detailing Mickelson’s life and desire to be a part of a Saudi Arabia-backed rival golf tour, Shipnuck’s life has been a whirlwind.
“I knew the excerpt would provide discussion and some controversy,” said Shipnuck, who started The Fire Pit Collective, a new online golf media company. “I never imagined the level of blowback on Phil.”
Perhaps it was Mickelson’s own words that struck a nerve when he gave Shipnuck details days before the book was nearly complete about joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf.
In Shipnuck’s excerpt, Mickelson tells him how members of Saudi Arabia’s government are scary people to get involved with and that they execute people for being gay, while also mentioning the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But he was considering it because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.
Requests for interviews from news outlets all over the world have not stopped for Shipnuck since the excerpt was released. Another excerpt was released last week detailing that Mickelson had allegedly lost $ 40 million in gambling.
“Saudi Arabia is a very sensitive and emotional issue with people,” Shipnuck said. “Phil was callous in dismissing their atrocity. It touched a nerve that none of us anticipated. ”
Having refused three interview requests from Shipnuck when informed he was writing a book on his distinguished career, Mickelson had a change of heart as the author was wrapping the book up.
Up until he volunteered the information, Shipnuck said the book was about Mickelson’s acts of kindness, his tumultuous career, as well as some of his monumental victories over a three-plus decade career.
“I spent a lot of time talking about his mentorship of younger players,” Shipnuck said. “I wanted to celebrate his thrilling victories. It’s not a takedown of Phil’s life. It’s a complete look at a very complicated person. ”
While Shipnuck was aware of the potential of the LIV Golf series and Mickelson’s interest, it was slated to be a small portion of the book until he volunteered the information.
“What’s crazy about it, I had so much access to Phil that I didn’t really need him for the book,” Shipnuck said. “Up until he called, this was going to be just a small portion of the book.”
The two have had a relationship – sometimes strained – since Shipnuck began writing about the PGA Tour in 1994 for Sports Illustrated – Mickelson’s second year on the circuit.
“I was delighted,” Shipnuck said. “He opened a vein. I was somewhat floored by his candor. Phil never opens his mouth without an agenda. He wanted it known. I was the only one who knew what Phil wanted. My job is to inform the reader and people of the game of what is really happening without the BS. ”
The two have had one text message exchange since the first excerpt was dropped, with Mickelson expressing his displeasure.
“I tried to write him back,” Shipnuck said. “But he changed his number. I sent a copy of the book to his lawyer. I wanted him to know what is in the book. Honestly, I wanted him to know it’s a very balanced look at his life. ”
An author of six other books, including “Bud, Sweat, & Tees,” a book he wrote about a rookie in 2001 that shot up the best sellers lists, Shipnuck has been on a three-month adrenaline rush.
“It’s 90% nerve-racking,” Shipnuck said. “As a reporter, you never want to be the story. It has affected my sleep. Part of it is the sheer intensity of it. ”
Shipnuck has had to deal with those who are defending Mickelson. But he’s also gotten a lot of support from players and officials in the golf world.
“There’s a small vocal minority that will defend Phil,” Shipnuck said. “But I’ve had at least 15 major people in the game, from players to agents that were very supportive and thanking me for telling the world what Phil was up to.”
Shipnuck made it clear he has no vendetta or ill will toward Mickelson. He talked about sharing Champagne with him after the British Open in 2013. The two have had dinner together.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Shipnuck said. “He’s been pissed off at some of the things I’ve typed. We’ve had some very spicy conversations over 28 years. But I’ve also been to his home. I have seen him in a lot of different settings. I’ve always been drawn to Phil. He’s fun to be around, fun to write about. I like the guy, the people around him. ”
Yet, Shipnuck, who had previously worked for Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine before starting his own company a year ago, felt an obligation to his readers to inform them.
“The Saudi golf tour was on my radar,” Shipnuck said. “But I had no idea it was going to be a big part of his life and legacy. The fact that he admitted it was surprising. He went off-script. He was too honest and too blunt. It was a major transgression. I guess for him to tell this, it kind of made sense. ”
The backlash that Shipnuck has faced has been met with no regrets.
“My allegiance is the truth,” Shipnuck said. “I’ve been a part of other high-profile stories. If the Saudi league has been successful, a lot of players felt Phil was endangering their livelihoods. ”
While Mickelson has been in exile since the excerpt was released, Shipnuck believes fans will be willing to forgive him because of all he has done for the game of golf.
“Sports fans love comebacks, a redemption story,” Shipnuck said. “If he could come back more humble and human, I think he could be more popular than ever. You just don’t overlook 30 years of success. Fans aren’t even sure why he’s in exile. I think people will be rooting for him. But he has to come back with a little humility and not be a smart ass. ”
Shipnuck has tried to maintain his lifestyle in Carmel of raising his four kids, coaching and running Fire Pit Collective, where he’s the editorial director.
“My life is still about taking care of my kids, walking the dog, coaching basketball and my golf swing,” Shipnuck said. “This book is not going to allow me to start shopping for houses on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach.”
Talks have surfaced about a documentary or movie on Mickelson’s life, based on Shipnuck’s book, which will be released on May 17.
“There have been people reaching out for a potential motion picture,” Shipnuck said. “I’ve been down that road before. Sometimes that’s just talk. But I did take screenwriting classes at UCLA. ”