Kelly Mitchum’s effort to raise awareness and money for Michael Townsend’s family during his play at the Wells Fargo Championship generated a great deal of attention. If you would still like to donate, you may do so by contributing to The Mike Townsend Memorial Fund, Kiawah Partners, 130 Gardeners Circle, PMB #136, Kiawah Island, SC 29455.
We at Pinehurst are proud of Mitchum’s initiative. While it’s wonderful to watch Kelly, a lead instructor at the Pinehurst Golf Academy, play in PGA Tour events, we agree with him that we wish it was Townsend there fulfilling his well-earned dream of competing in a Tour event.
It was an emotional week, for sure, which was captured beautifully in many of the stories about Kelly’s efforts.
Mitchum’s spot in the event originally belonged to Mike Townsend, a former All-American at Methodist University and the head pro at the Kiawah Island Club’s Cassique Course in South Carolina. Townsend earned it when he won the Carolinas PGA Section Professional Championship in July. But less than two weeks after his win he was killed in a car accident, leaving behind a wife and two children.
“It was just an incredible tragedy,” Mitchum said. “I just can’t imagine what they’ve had to go through.”
When PGA Professional Kelly Mitchum prepares to tee off in Thursday’s first round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club, he’ll hear his name announced — but he’ll have Mike Townsend in his thoughts.
“This is going to be a different event for me,” Mitchum said. “It’s one that I wish I could give back. I’ve already tried to kind of imagine what the first tee shot’s going to be like. I’ll definitely have thoughts of Mike there. It really has been very tragic, and we’re trying to honor him in the best way we can. But it’s kind of hard to put into words.
“Mike was a great guy, so personable. I played with him a fair number of times and he was just one of those guys who was easy to talk to, always friendly, always had a smile on his face. Just a good, fun guy to be around. And obviously a fantastic player on top of that. It was one of those kind of sitatuions where you can’t believe when you heard the news of what happened.”
This week was different, though. The black ribbon on his cap said it all.
Mitchum had been friends with Townsend for more than a decade. The first time the two played golf together was at the Carolinas PGA Assistants Championship, and Mitchum came out on the short end of the stick.
“So I didn’t like him at first,” he said, clearly joking by the broad grin on his face. “No, Mike was a great guy. Fun to be around. Always smiling. Always in a good mood. He’s very much missed.”
“I went back quite a ways with Mike,” Mitchum said. “He was about 13 years younger than I, and when he first got into the section, I played with him early on in the (Carolinas) Assistants Championship. He beat me – I’ll fess up. It came down to the last hole, and he won, and that was my first experience with Mike.
“I knew him from then on, and he was just a super guy. Very personable, very friendly, easy to talk to. He was a good guy for our section – we want guys like that. He was supposed to play here this week. I shouldn’t be here. I can’t imagine what that first tee shot is going to be like.”
FULL NOTE FROM KATHERINE TOWNSEND
My dad is the one who told me about the beautiful tribute Kelly had planned for Michael. I was completely and totally shocked. It’s been almost nine months since he passed; I can’t help but mark the months because he died on Ana Kate’s first birthday. Everyday I see the world around me continue to move forward, especially with the kids. Each day that passes I see their memories of their father quickly fade. They’ll never know the amazing man that I was so fortunate enough to spend 16 years of my life with. They do have his love for the game of golf and I hope that brings them some sort of connection and comfort in the years to come.
What Kelly is doing means more to me than any dollar amount he raises. He’s showing the world, the golf community, and most importantly my children that the game of golf is about honor and respect. It’s about banding together to support one of their own on and off the course in their time of need. While the kids’ memories of Michael are all but gone, Kelly is showing us that Michael’s spirit will forever live on in the game that he loved. Kelly is a true gentleman and a great role model. Michael was lucky to have him as a competitor and more importantly, a friend. I cannot thank Kelly and the members of the PGA enough for all that they have done for us. I wish that I could be there to cheer him on but I hope he knows I’ll be cheering from the set. I wish him the absolute best of luck and I know Michael would be so incredibly proud of what he’s doing. My heart aches because this was Michael’s dream and he was never able to see it come true, but I still can’t help but be over the moon Kelly has this opportunity.