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Cancer doctor caddies for pro golfer

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HOUSTON – A cancer doctor's work in the hospital and his past days on the green come together as he gets a second chance on the PGA stage.

Like any wannabe golfer, Dr. Tom Buchholz would love to be great at it. The MD Anderson cancer doctor has been connected to the golf courses since high school and college, when he worked in at a pro shop at Westchester Country Club in New York City.

"First I drove the golf carts, then I got promoted to drive the tractor on the range, where I would get hit by golf balls all the time. I finally ended up in the pro shop," Buchholz said.

While Buchholz's swing may not be as good as a professional golfer, when he was working at the golf shop, he actually became part of a PGA team.

"I just happened to have a pro walk into the shop looking for a caddy, and I was able to caddy in the PGA tour for four days," Dr. Buchholz said.

That was before medical school and before he became a breast cancer doctor at MD Anderson.

"I would love to be a good golfer, but I haven't quite yet developed the skill set Phil Mickelson has," Buchholz said. 

The reason Phil Mickelson's name comes up as comparison is because Buchholz met the pro golfer at the hospital. Mickelson's wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2009.

Buchholz said while spending time with the couple during treatments at the hospital, he grew close to them. The relationship renewed his interest in the game. So, when it was time for Michelson to play in the Shell Houston Open in 2010, the golfer decided to say thank you in a very unusual and public way.

"This was kind of a whim to see if he could come out and caddy a couple holes," said Mickelson.

Between holes on Shell Houston Open's back nine, Mickelson pulled Buchholz out of the crowd and asked him to caddy three holes.

"He stopped playing and came over and talked to me and my wife right there in the middle of the fairway and said he would meet me as he exited the green. That's when he challenged me to rekindle my caddying skills from way back. It was really funny because I have nothing to offer Phil Mickelson's golf game," said Buchholz. 

Maybe the doctor doesn't think he added anything to Mickelson's game, but the pro did get birdies on all three of the holes Buchholz caddied.

"I think if you look at the record books, I probably have the best average out of any PGA caddy in the history," Buchholz said.

The move by Mickelson made it onto TV, and, for a while, Buchholz received a lot of attention, not for his medical work but for his bag carrying skills.

"I started hearing from a lot of my high school friends I hadn't heard from in three or four decades. It was my 15 minutes of fame," Buchholz said.

Mickelson's mother was diagnosed with cancer the same year as his wife. She also became a breast cancer patient at MD Anderson. 

After spending so much time in the Texas Medical Center, the golfer has said Houston has a special place in his heart. Mickelson gives tickets to the Shell Houston Open to the doctors and staff who treated both his wife and mother, but Buchholz said the couple has given the cancer community more than tickets and donations.

"They have done so much just by being honest. They have been able to help the whole breast cancer community, and really the whole cancer community," Buchholz said.

The doctor said he is going to get another shot to use his caddy skills. Mickelson has invited him to carry his clubs for a few holes at the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga.