BILOXI, Miss. — Tiger Wood asks for Michael “Mickey” Bradley’s expertise along with Phil Mickelson and all the golf greats.
This year’s Biloxian Made Good honoree travels the world as a PGA Tour rules official.
“I could live anywhere in the United States with this job; I love Biloxi,” he said, and he’s become and ambassador of the city, presenting Biloxi Lighthouse magnets to people he meets.
Bradley will be honored Thursday by the Biloxi Bay Chamber as the 23rd Biloxian Made Good.
Now in his 27th year on the professional golf tour, Bradley tells colorful tales about the places he’s been and the golfers he’s watched play.
“I got to see the best,” he said. He has officiated at nine Masters, the British Open, the U.S Open and many other top tournaments.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work at my hobby,” he said. He plays golf with his friends on the Coast but doesn’t have time while working.
“I only brought my clubs to Augusta,” he said.
As a rules official, he arrives sometimes a week ahead of the players and completes two books of checklists to set up the course and mark all the hazards.
“These guys are playing for $6 (million) to $8 million,” Bradley said. He wants to get it right.
“When people see me out on the course they say, ‘How did you get the job?'” Bradley said.
The job has its pros and cons. For 25 years he worked 28 to 32 weeks a year away from his wife, the former Susan Joyce, and their children and grandchildren. He’s on the course in lightning and rain, and from morning to night.
He was on the course one day when a 12-foot, three legged alligator in New Orleans stopped play. That alligator put him on the national news when Diane Sawyer interviewed him for “World News Tonight” and a You Tube video got 1.5 million hits showing Bradley trying to move the huge alligator off the course.
“I can run the little ones in the lake. He wasn’t budging,” Bradley said.
Cameras also captured some of his many rulings for Tiger Woods. As the golfer’s popularity grew, so did the crowds who lined all the way from the tee to the green to see him play.
“That was very good for golf and the level of play,” he said. But kids would pick up his ball and cameramen would kick the ball as they ran to follow Woods, requiring Bradley to make a ruling.
“They were all good to me. Gentlemen,” he said of the pro golfers.
Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, the pros showed their respect for Bradley, flying from their tournament in Orlando to South Mississippi just weeks after the storm to play in a pro-am fundraiser at Shell Landing to benefit Habitat for Humanity.
Eighteen of the pros came and he said, “We raised enough money to build nine homes for Habitat.” The tournament continued for two more years. Now his brothers and friends cook for the PGA’s Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic at Fallen Oak and the pros joke that they won’t play unless they get some of the 20 gallons of jambalaya George Bradley has for them at the sixth tee each day.
Mickey Bradley retired two years ago but when the PGA Tour asked him to continue as an independent contractor and consultant, he signed up for three more years. The first place they sent him was to China. He’s now involved in three development tours in China, Canada and Latin America — a long way from where he began in Biloxi. At about age 12, his brother Donnie paid him 75 cents to be his caddie and in high school Bradley golfed on Biloxi’s team.
“I didn’t really aspire to be a rules official. It was laid out for me,” he said. He worked his way up from the Broadwater course in Biloxi to golf pro to golf course superintendent to rules official when each opportunity arose. He was inducted into the Biloxi Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Gulf States Section Hall of Fame in 2014.
“I’ve worked every aspect in the golf business. I don’t know what else I could do in the game,” he said, but as he thought about it he added, “I’d like to play better golf.”