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Former Master’s leader now leading Mean Green
Ryne Gannoe / Senior Staff Writer
On the first day of the PGA Master’s Tournament in 1980, Jeff Mitchell, now the women’s head golf coach at UNT, stepped up to the tee with fear in the back of his mind.
During a practice round, someone mentioned the story of Marty Fleckman. When Fleckman teed off on his first hole in the Master’s, his shot went so far to the right it landed in a nearby parking lot.
“He literally hit it on a 45 degree angle away from the golf course,” Mitchell said. “And so when I got to the first tee on Thursday, I kind of thought about that. Fortunately, I hit it in the fairway.”
Mitchell didn’t just land the ball inbounds. On the first day he made seven birdies, 12 pars and was tied for first place.
“I think the most memorable part from a golfing standpoint obviously was the first round,” Mitchell said. “I can’t even imagine anything in the game of golf that can be more dramatic or more memorable than that.”
Mitchell finished the four-day major tournament tied for 38th place. Mitchell said the experience, the highlight of a seven-year pro career, will last him and his family forever. Mitchell’s wife, Christy, was eight months pregnant at the time of the tournament.
“My mother- and father-in-law came down there, and one of my sisters-in-law, and we rented a house and spent the whole week there,” Mitchell said. “It was great. To be able to share that with them was really nice. I had a very close relationship with my in-laws and certainly to have my wife there was special.”
Mitchell’s dedication to golf carries over into his coaching and his relationship with his family. He has been with his wife for 34 years.
“We complement each other,” Christy Mitchell said. “I’m the high-strung one. I push him when he needs to be pushed. He slows me down when I need to be slowed down. We’re lucky. He’s perfect. Perfect for me, that is.”
He has two kids of his own, but most of the players he coached over his 23-year coaching career have become like family. Mean Green junior Chaslyn Chrismer said he’s been a fatherly figure to her and other women on the team.
“There’s been some stuff with my family that happened over the years and he’s always been there for me, and he’s there for everyone else,” Chrismer said. “He’s definitely more than a coach and that’s really important.”
When he isn’t on the golf course or at home Mitchell said he prefers to be casting a line.
“If it were up to me I’d fish 365 days a year,” he said. “It’s a real release for me. Believe it or not I grew up very shy. I like being alone. I’m never lonely, even if I’m alone. It’s just solitary endeavors like that that I enjoy.”
Mitchell and the Mean Green are preparing for their first event of the year, the Jim West Challenge in Blanco, Texas from Feb. 17-18.