Golf legend Phil Mickelson has very openly admitted to having a gambling problem, having wagered more than $1 billion on various sports over the years.
Those included taking cash bets with other players during official events and accusations that he even tried to wager on the 2012 Ryder Cup that he was playing in. But the PGA Tour – where Mickelson plied his trade for two decades before his controversial switch to LIV Golf – never saw fit to sanction ‘Lefty’ for his betting.
All of which makes their decision to suspend two second-tier players for gambling ‘offences’, which saw them bet on an exhibition tournament, all the more galling….
Vince India and Jake Staiano, who ply their trade on the PGA Tour’s feeder circuit, the Korn Ferry Tour, have been suspended after being charged with violating the PGA TOUR’s Integrity Program – despite wagering on a tournament they weren’t even involved in.
India has been banned for six months, from September 2023 to March 2024, with Staiano facing a shorter spell on the sidelines until December.
According to PGA Tour officials, the pair violated rules that prohibit them from betting on tour events – despite the fact that they weren’t playing in the tournaments in question.
PGA TOUR statement regarding Korn Ferry Tour members Vince India and Jake Staiano pic.twitter.com/bK5zVfaeg0
— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) October 27, 2023
However, their Integrity Program document confirms that gambling is a no-no, detailing a list of prohibitions that includes ‘any covered person, directly or indirectly, betting on the outcome or any other aspect of any PGA TOUR Event, any other professional golf competition or any elite amateur golf competition (including Olympic Golf) anywhere in the world (“professional golf event”)’.
India has since taken to X (Twitter) to apologise for his ‘knowing’ breaching of the rules, while Staiano called in to the Monday Q Info to explain himself – which included the revelation that the four bets he placed totalled just $116.20 (£94.31).
— Jake Staiano (@JakeStaiano) October 30, 2023
The 27-year-old will now be prohibited from entering the PGA Tour’s Q School, which will prevent him from trying to further his career.
Three of Staiano’s bets were placed on ‘The Match’, a one-off exhibition contested by rivals Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau in 2021 which, at best, is a flimsy application of the Integrity Program’s rules on what constitutes a ‘professional golf event’.
“It is what it is,” Staiano said. “I’ve accepted my punishment; it is what it is. Fair or not, people can argue that. I just wanted to make sure other guys understand exactly what happened so that they don’t make the same mistakes.”
Mickelson, whose billion dollar avalanche of bets threatened the sheer integrity of the sport, went – and continues to go – completely unpunished.
Gambling with the Mob
The six-time major winner has repeatedly denied placing the alleged $400,000 wager on the Ryder Cup, which was detailed by professional gambler Billy Walters in his recent book, who claimed that Mickelson wanted to bet on the American team to win – they would subsequently lose by a single point.
Even if that’s the case, there’s no doubting the jaw-dropping scale of Mickelson’s gambling. It has been reported that Lefty, as he is known, would use intermediaries to place his wagers for him – including one unnamed individual who was involved in an illegal gambling operation. They received nearly $3 million from Mickelson’s bank account.
And then there were the court papers that linked the 53-year-old to a mob-controlled bookmaker in Detroit. Don ‘Dandy’ DeSeranno allegedly took bets from high rollers during his near decade-long stint as a fixer, and was even accused of duping Mickelson out of $500,000.
DeSeranno made the revelation as part of a racketeering case involving Jack Giacalone, a known organised crime boss in Michigan. Dandy himself was known to be an associate of the infamous La Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia family that acted as the inspiration for silver screen classics such as The Godfather franchise and The Sopranos.
Mickelson also formed a betting partnership with Walters, who said of his one-time friend: “In all the decades I’ve worked with partners and beards, Phil had accounts as large as anyone I’d seen. You don’t get those accounts without betting millions of dollars.”
It’s been suggested that PGA Tour chiefs knew of their star player’s predilection.