PGA instructor Mitchell set to practice what he preaches at Senior PGA Championship
By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
TOWN & COUNTRY, Mo. – Mike Mitchell of Rancho Mirage, Calif., will spend the first two rounds of his debut in the 74th Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid in a rare “classroom environment.” He may be the envy of all his PGA teaching peers for the access he’s getting this week at Bellerive Country Club.
The 51-year-old PGA director of instruction at The Hideaway in La Quinta, Calif., one of 41 PGA club professionals competing in the most historic and prestigious event in senior golf, will play in the same pairing with one of his students in the 156-player field: Champions Tour professional Bill Glasson.
Between his own rounds, Mitchell also will keep an eye on longtime student Michael Allen, the 2009 Senior PGA Champion, while Steve Lowery has had Mitchell’s guidance weeks before the Championship.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better situation other than to have all three of my students with me in a foursome for this Championship,” said Mitchell, who earned his berth in the field after finishing tied for 21st in last fall’s Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship in Aldie, Va.
“Oh, God! I’m proud to be here. It’s a great honor to play in this Championship. I played well enough to get into this, and this week has been great. I feel like I’ve been getting the help I needed, including advice from players like Michael (Allen), who told me not to burn out practicing. And, I have friends and associates at Titleist that helped me get my equipment set. I feel like I’m playing well coming in. Now, it’s a matter of going out to see the golf course and seeing what I can do.”
Mitchell oversees an expansive training center at The Hideaway, a 36-hole complex in La Quinta that accommodates 470 members. He spends most of his time on the practice range developing a solid working relationship with students of all abilities. For most teachers, they rarely get the opportunity to extend the relationship in a major championship, inside the ropes.
“Michael and I have been at it for 10 years now,” said Mitchell. “I’ve worked about the same with Bill, and with Steve, it’s been about three years. Michael and I have a great relationship and built a strong foundation as far as mechanics. He gets it and knows what his body has to do to give him a chance to be successful. He’s dropped 15 pounds and it has made a big difference.”
Mitchell played one year at the University of Toledo, then decided in 1988 to move west and attempt to earn his PGA Tour card. He competed on mini-tours, and in several Ben Hogan Tour events, a forerunner to today’s Web.com Tour. When he found that he would not be making a living at the game’s highest echelon, he devoted his passion to teaching. His job has taken him to tournaments across the country.
“I'll be working on my game and competing, but I'll also be taking care of my students at the same time,” Mitchell said. “What is taking place for me this week is certainly unique, especially for a major.
“I am a believer in time management. I try to do that in my life, my work. I have to. This week, I am playing alongside Bill (Glasson), and will watch what he is doing. After the round, we will talk about what took place in the round. Over the next two days, I will start late, then early. Michael is playing late Thursday, then early Friday. It will work out for us. I helped Steve (Lowery) quite a bit before we got here. I won’t be spending time with Steve that much this week.”
Allen said that he has “all of the confidence in the world” in working with Mitchell. “Mike changed my golf swing and my habits. But it is more about his passion for the game and his love for the game that has come through for me.
“I have never met anyone like him. When I was young, you didn’t want to be seen on a bus with your golf clubs. He changed that image for me, and instilled the passion in me for the game.”
Mitchell said that Allen’s 2009 Senior PGA Championship triumph at Canterbury Golf Club near Cleveland, “was his coming out moment.”
“I think that he had the advantage at Canterbury, having played against stronger fields on Tour before he arrived at Canterbury,” said Mitchell. “He’s worked real hard on his fitness over the past few years. His training is great and he’s able to move a lot better through the swing.”
Allen said that Mitchell “works me hard. But, I understand what it takes. Mike encouraged me to keep fit, and I lost the weight more for my own health.”
Mitchell has helped many of golf's best golfers out on tour. One of his first students in the early 1990s was John Cook, who was runner-up in the 2012 Senior PGA Championship. Cook withdrew from the Championship earlier this week to attend the funeral of player-CBS broadcast legend Ken Venturi, who passed away May 17.
There are goals for teachers, too. Mitchell would like nothing more than to make the 36-hole cut on Friday evening.
“I want to make it to the weekend and play with one of my guys,” said Mitchell. “This is a great setting, a great event that I am very proud to be competing out here with some that I normally only see on a practice range.”