Two Salukis share bond through golf

By Tony McDaniel

Two Salukis — father and daughter — spend most of their days on SIU’s campus, but spend their time completing entirely separate tasks.

Phil Gatton, of Carbondale, is the Director of Plant and Service Operations, while his daughter, Alexis Gatton of Edwardsville, is a senior on the SIU women’s golf team.

Phil has worked at the university since 1988 and said Carbondale felt like a home to him from the beginning, and now his daughter is a part of the Saluki tradition.


“The people that work here are a part of my family,” he said. “I’ve been so involved here for so long it’s my life, so for her to come down and have my other life bleed back into this is really nice.”

Alexis came to Carbondale in 2012 — 24 years after her father — after she attended John A. Logan her freshman and sophomore years. Phil said he never pictured his daughter playing golf at SIU.

“I always thought she’d play at Edwardsville or some place close to home,” he said. “She ended up coming here, which was kind of surprising.”

As director at the Physical Plant, Phil said his job is similar to running a city. He oversees everything that happens around SIU from construction projects to the campus mail service. He even has to be a psychiatrist from time to time to help deal with settling personnel issues.

Alexis has a demanding schedule as well. As a student athlete, she is responsible for not only keeping up with her studies, but also attending practice and following a strenuous daily schedule.

Phil and Alexis both start their day around 6 a.m. when they wake up at Phil’s house in Carbondale where the two live together.

“I usually see [dad] in the morning,” Alexis said. “[He] always makes sure I’m up.”

From there, the two part ways. Alexis goes to a workout with the rest of her team, which lasts an hour.

While Alexis is with her team, Phil is arriving at the Physical Plant to begin his workday at 7 a.m., where he starts his day by getting caught up on paperwork and signs off on personnel matters until 9 a.m.

From there, Phil spends the bulk of his day in meetings that usually last until 4 p.m.

“We have a lot of meetings just because there’s so many different things I oversee,” Phil said.

While Phil is in meetings, Alexis is beginning her day.

After her team workout, Alexis has class from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, but the rest of the week, Alexis has free time during that period.

“From 9 to about 12 is usually when I have my free time,” she said. “That’s usually when I do my homework, then I try cleaning or do some laundry, which I usually get behind on.”

For most around Carbondale, noon is a time for students and teachers to grab a quick bite to eat before they head to their next class but for the Gattons, noon represents a chance for father and daughter to spend time together.

“Once in a while, I go out to eat with someone [from the Physical Plant], but most of the time I try to go home and have lunch with her,” Phil said.

After lunch, Phil returns to meetings at the Physical Plant until 4 p.m. while Alexis works on her golf game.

“We have practice six days a week,” Alexis said. “If its warm enough, or if its not raining, or its not to windy we usually play, then we work through putting drills. Then we work through chipping drills, after that we hit into a net.”

Before Alexis moved to Carbondale, her and her father bonded during the weekends over rounds of golf, something Phil said they started when Alexis was just three years old.

“Golf has been our thing we have in common,” Phil said. “I actually thought I was going to be a really good golfer, I was in a tournament the day after she was born. I went and told her mom I was leaving, and she yelled at me for thinking I was going to go play golf, so that pretty well ended my golf career. Alexis has basically taken over what I couldn’t do.”

After Alexis’s birth, Phil’s role as a golfer went from player to teacher as he began teaching his daughter at a young age how to play, which is where their close relationship began. Phil says his daughter’s game has come a long way.

“If we could just add the best parts of our game together we could be a heck of a golfer,” he said. “It started out with her playing even in front of the women’s tees, she started playing half way up the course, and I would hit from the back tees, now she plays the men’s and I need to be playing the senior tees here pretty soon.”

At 4 p.m., Alexis has to go to study table to work on her homework, while Phil returns to his office to respond to a few e-mails.  Once Phil is done with his duties on campus he returns home to restore a house he bought, something he says is a way for him to unwind after his day is finished.

“I bought a house that was basically abandoned on public auction and we just gutted it,” he said. “Alexis has had to live through that renovation, she came from a really nice house where she had her own bedroom, bathroom and walk-in closet. We lived on a lake and had a pool, then she comes down here and lives in a house that’s getting tore up.”

Alexis helps her father with the renovations when she has time.

“I just try to clean up after his messes,” Alexis said. “He tears holes in the wall, he dropped a rock on the floor the other day, we fixed that hole.”

Alexis’s teammate Ashleigh Rushing, a senior from Marion, says Alexis is at an advantage when it comes to having her dad around to watch her play in local tournaments.

“When people come out to watch and support you want to play good for them,” Rushing said. “It’s not really an added pressure, knowing that you have that support really helps.”

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected], @tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 282