On Saturday, April 28, Mike Mitchell, Golf Pro at ACE Club, had the great fortune of playing a round of golf a living legend: Mr. Gary Player. We caught up with Mike to get all the details on the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
How did this all come about, anyway? A few days before the round, The ACE Club’s Director of Golf asked Mike if he would like to be the fourth player in a group that consisted of Mr. Player, his son-in-law Matt Hall (who resides here in Philadelphia) and Jeff Andes, Director of Member Relations. Mr. Player often visits his family in Philadelphia and will usually make a point to play his design here at The ACE Club.
Jeff Andes with Mr. Gary Player
Mike, who at this point had only been on staff at The ACE Club for one month, was both surprised and honored that he was chosen to round out the group.
“It is an incredible thing to play with a PGA Tour player, but a stratospheric thing to play with a legend of golf such as Mr. Player,” Mike recounts. “While warming up on the range, Jeff and I were sufficiently nervous as we hit balls next to one of the greatest of all time. We discussed how it would be a good idea that we not embarrass ourselves or the club.”
The night before, Mike called and texted family members and golf industry friends to tell them about his upcoming round. On the second tee, he even told Mr. Player that he was tired due to being awake until 2:00 a.m. sending those texts, which he met with a hearty laugh.
Mike Mitchell with Mr. Gary Player
Mike recalls being impressed by Mr. Player’s demeanor and the way in which he acknowledged and complimented the rest of the group on their golf skills. The legend even offered advice to Mike, Jeff and Matt about how to improve their swings and short putting.
“It is inspiring to play with him. At 82, he is the model of fitness and longevity in golf,” Mike says. “He is still working hard at his game, which I think is just great.”
On the ninth tee, Mike summoned the courage to ask Mr. Player to appear in a brief video with him as testimony to his family and friends that he really did play with the legend.
After asking Mike about his favorite hole on the course (number nine), Mr. Player revealed that the 16th hole was his personal favorite. He also complimented the course conditions and the hard work put in by The ACE Club’s superintendent John Canavan.
At one point, Mr. Player mentioned that his most memorable round of golf was when he made an eagle on the 14th hole at the famed Carnoustie course to “beat Jack” and win the Claret Jug. He also noted his victory at Augusta in 1978 when he shot 30 on the second nine to win the green jacket.
“As we were walking off the green, I shook hands with Matt and Jeff and then said, ‘Mr. Player, this was my most memorable round,’” Mike recalls. “I was then the recipient of a very firm handshake from one of the living legends of golf.”