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IN THE BATTLE AGAINST BREAST CANCER, THE SCHWARTZELS HAVE A FRIEND IN PHIL

News
Written by
Mike McAllister
Jun 07 2024
- 8 MIN
Charl STORY Lead image

HUMBLE, Texas – As Charl Schwartzel competes in this week’s LIV Golf Houston, his wife Rosalind will continue her more important battle against triple-negative breast cancer at nearby MD Anderson, the largest cancer center in the U.S. and one of the world’s best oncology hospitals.

On Friday, she underwent scans. Next Monday, she will have tests performed along with more scans. She’s also scheduled to meet with her surgeons. Oh, and she’ll undergo chemo treatment No. 13, which may be slightly different than the first dozen due to an adjustment with her medicine.

In between, she’s planning to attend the tournament this weekend at the Golf Club of Houston, although she must stay in the clubhouse instead of following her husband outside the ropes, her outdoor activities limited due to the Texas heat. Several doctors and staff members from MD Anderson have been invited as their guests, so she’s looking forward to seeing them in a more casual environment.

For the South African couple – who also have a place in Palm Beach, Florida – Houston has become their unofficial third home. They’ve made five visits since Rosalind was first diagnosed earlier this year while Charl was competing in LIV Golf Jeddah. They discussed renting a place near the hospital but ultimately did not want to uproot their children.

MD Anderson is now working with doctors in the Palm Beach area to limit Rosalind’s travel. Still, she has four treatments left in Houston, spaced out in three-week intervals. All the surgeries will be done here too, as well as follow-ups and other procedures deemed necessary.

“We’ve still got a lengthy road to walk with Houston,” Charl said.

He and his wife visited the area long before her diagnosis. Charl made his first start at the Houston Open in 2006. He returned in 2010, the year he and Rosalind were married, and tied for third that week. A year later, he tied for 30th. 

In his next start, he won the Masters.

His last appearance in the Houston Open was 2015. When LIV Golf announced that the Golf Club of Houston would host a tournament this season, the Stinger GC veteran – winner of LIV Golf's inaugural event two years ago in London – looked forward to returning to South Texas. He didn’t know at the time that his first visit back would not be for golf, but to support his wife in her fight against a life-threatening disease.

“This was a great stop for us before the Masters, but I haven’t played here for a long time,” Schwartzel said. “And then this year we started coming to Houston for the wrong reasons – or the right reasons, you could say. MD Anderson is here, and they’ve been a big part of our lives.”

For that, they have Phil Mickelson and his wife Amy to thank.

In 2009, Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer, and that’s when the Mickelsons began their relationship with MD Anderson. Two months later, Phil’s mother Mary also was diagnosed with breast cancer, and became a patient at MD Anderson. Both survived, and the Mickelson family naturally became huge fans of the cancer center.

When Phil learned about Rosalind, he wanted to offer as much help as possible. Although he and Charl have been competitors for nearly two decades and share dinner every April with the other Masters champions, they were not particularly close.

Rosalind’s illness has tightened their bond. 

Phil and Charl have had numerous discussions the last few months, with Phil offering advice, guidance and contacts of doctors and medical staffers who could assist. Charl has listened and asked questions. Their conversations are not easy, but they share a common goal – getting the best treatment to ensure Rosalind’s survival.

“We’ve had a number of conversations because it’s a long process,” Mickelson said. “You can’t rush it. You just have to go through it. There’s a couple of really critical decisions early on that everybody facing the challenge that they are facing has to make. Oftentimes, they’re the most critical decisions for long-term success.

“I was sharing with him some of those key things without trying to push. Just inform. Like, this is an important thing. What to look at. What information to take in. What’s ahead of you. Just sharing what the challenges are going to be.”

On Thursday after finishing his pro-am round in Houston, Schwartzel was asked about the connection with the HyFlyers GC captain. The South African took a moment to respond, doing well to hold back the emotion that comes with unbridled gratitude. Words, he knew, would not do it justice.

“I don’t really know how to say it, but I can’t thank him enough,” Schwartzel said. “He’s been a tremendous help. He put us on the right path, introduced us to the right people and to an amazing team.”

As he does inside the ropes with fellow competitors who seek his help as a Hall of Fame golfer, Mickelson was glad to share his insights, especially as it pertains to MD Anderson.

“There’s a couple of things that I learned,” Mickelson said. “One of them is that is if you have the ability to start with the best, they [MD Anderson] are many, many years ahead of everyone else. The experience from a patient standpoint is so different and unique where everything is in one spot – which isn’t the case everywhere and wasn’t the case where we started. 

“Having everything in-house, you have a team. You have a surgeon, you had a radiation oncologist, you have reconstruction, oncology. They’re all right there in the same building, all sharing information. It’s just so much more cohesive of an experience as opposed to four people who are in independent practice. So that’s one thing. 

“Also, it’s a research lab, so they’re the ones doing all the research as well. Even though there’s no money involved in research, that’s what they do. They’re learning new techniques; they’re learning new ways to fight the disease. A lot of people in private practice don’t do that. So, if you have the ability to go to a place like that, it’s very advantageous to your long-term success.”

When Charl and Rosalind made their first visit to MD Anderson in Houston, they were overwhelmed by its size.

“I was dumbstruck how big it is,” Schwartzel said. “It’s like a city. It’s ginormous. Huge. You go to the blood donor facility, they give you an address and you get in the car and drive. Or if you want to walk, you walk across these bridges that just keep on going. There’s a reason this is probably the best cancer facility in the world.”

Most of all, they are grateful for the treatment Rosalind receives. And grateful for the friendship extended by the Mickelsons, along with the constant check-ins from Phil to make sure the process is going smoothly and to be a sounding board for a husband who can offer little more than support for his ill wife.

“I tend to spend a lot of time talking to Phil about different things,” Schwartzel said. “We have lengthy conversations. It’s been amazing. We are so thankful for how he’s guided us and put us on the right path.

“It’s a bad disease and even the best doctors sometimes can’t cure it. But at least we feel like we have the best team and the best facility.”

In other words, the Schwartzels have hope. In the fight against cancer, no feeling matters more.

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