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Golf Pro Tina Mickelson Handicaps the Masters

Mickelson has reported about action on the links for CBS Sports and The Golf Channel. (Photo courtesy of Callaway)

PGA golf pro Tina Mickelson (yes, she’s related to Phil—they’re siblings!) has never known life without golf. “I started playing when I was 18 months old, so needless to say, I don't remember ever not playing the game,” Mickelson says. “My dad was and is an avid golfer so he was excited to share his passion with all of his kids.”

Her dad shared his knowledge and love of the game with his family, and now Mickelson, an ambassador for Callaway Golf,  is passing along her intel as the competition at the Masters heats up.

Who do you see as the front-runners this year in the PGA and LPGA and why?

It's always tough to pick specific front-runners, but I always enjoy watching the newer and younger players because they bring a sense of freshness, excitement and a sense of fearlessness to the game. I like paying close attention to them when they start out and watch how they grow and mature over the years.

With the Masters going on this weekend, whom should we look out for and what do we need to know to enjoy the tournament?

Course knowledge and experience are critical to playing well. Television does not do that golf course justice—there are so many more undulations and nuances to the course than you can see on TV. Very rarely do you have an even lie in the fairway; it's either an uphill, downhill or sidehill lie. And you can't always see all different and subtle breaks on the greens so reading your putts can be challenging. The wind can also be quite a factor. There is so much more to each shot than meets the eye.

For Mickelson's advice for new golfers and more scoop about the wellness benefits of the sport, keep reading.

How did your family members inspire your attitude and your play on the course?

Golf was a way for our family to spend quality time together. Since the experiences on the golf course with my family were always so much fun, my attitude today is that the game should always be fun and enjoyable. If you find that the game is becoming stressful, a grind or work, then it is time to take a break. Unless you are part of the .01 percent of the population that gets paid to play the game, if you are not thoroughly enjoying yourself out there, it's a waste of time.

Great point! It can be a great way to get in some extra activity too. What are the health benefits of golf?

The benefits are both physical and emotional. Walking, rather than taking a cart, is a great way to get some exercise. The golf swing gives you a bit of a core workout, too. And spending time outdoors in the fresh air and beautiful scenery playing a game you enjoy with people you love is always good for the soul!

What do most amateurs do wrong when they’re new to the sport?

Many amateurs have unrealistic expectations. It takes a lot of time and practice to see improvement in the golf swing and the golf game in general. Many amateurs get frustrated because they don't see the progress as quickly as they think they should and, as a result, they give up. When starting out, the focus should not be on results, but rather the overall experience. Be patient with yourself and your swing.

What other suggestions do you have for non-pro golfers?

For a woman who is new to golf, the right equipment is going to be as important as the right attitude. For a new female golfer, I’d recommend Callaway’s Solaire II set of clubs. It’s ideal for beginners because it provides them with all the right tools to get right out onto the course with confidence. Plus, the clubs and the cart bag are stylish and colorful. I play the Diablo Edge irons, hybrids, and fairway woods and the FTiz driver. I have a senior flex shaft in all my clubs.

Now tell us: Who are you rooting for at the 2012 Masters?