PGA's Phil Mickelson inspires teen to take up golf

The autographed photo sent to Garrett from Phil Mickelson. (Source: WECT)
The autographed photo sent to Garrett from Phil Mickelson. (Source: WECT)

Garrett Hardy, 13, looks up to one of the professional golfers who will be teeing off at the Wells Fargo Championship, which starts next week.

The two have something in common.

Two years ago, Hardy started experiencing joint pain, swelling and rashes that sent him to the doctor several times.

His parents took him to Duke to see a specialist who made the diagnosis: psoriatic arthritis, a painful disorder that causes joint pain and swelling.

There's no cure for the condition, which is uncommon in kids Hardy's age.

"It's hard," he said. "I've missed a couple days of school. I'll get up in the morning and I'll be aching. Playing sometimes is hard because my back will hurt and I'll have to sit down for a while."

Hardy has to take several pills a day and an injection once a week to manage the symptoms.

"Secretly, my husband and I have been sad at times," said Jamie Hardy, Garrett's mom. "We don't bring that. We try to stay positive and pray and talk about it when we need to, but not focus on it like that's defining him. I don't want him to feel like that."

His pain, though, meant he had to give up sports he played, like football.

"I knew I wouldn't be able to do some things that other kids can," Garrett said. "I just try to do the best for my body."

Then, one day, Garrett's mom said they saw Phil Mickelson on TV talking about living with psoriatic arthritis. Mickelson was diagnosed with the condition in 2010.

"Seeing someone like that, so good at golf, I feel like I can almost do anything," Garrett said.

He was inspired to take up the game.

"I started hitting and it just got more fun as I went," he said.

Garrett even wrote to Mickelson.

A few weeks ago, the golfer responded, sending an autographed glove and autographed photo.

"I was really happy," Garrett said. "It makes me feel like someone actually knows how I feel. It was important to me."

Garrett and his family hope to meet Mickelson when he's in town.  If that doesn't happen, they're looking forward to cheering on Garrett's favorite player on the tour when he plays in the Wells Fargo Championship.

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