Mike Mitchell does not at all regret his decision to leave professional golf. After his performance in the 86th Washington Metropolitan Golf Association Amateur championship, however, area amateurs will be wishing he would reconsider.
At Old South Country Club in Lothian yesterday, the 24-year-old Mitchell, who is from Chevy Chase and plays out of Columbia Country Club, defeated Scott Marino in the 36-hole championship final, 5 and 4. It was Mitchell's first tournament since regaining his amateur status.
"I got [amateur status] back last fall, but I was working, and golfing wasn't that important -- I was applying to law school at the time," said Mitchell, who will attend law school at Catholic University in the fall. "So I didn't play in any tournaments and didn't really play much golf at all."
But there was not much, if any, rust apparent on Mitchell's game during the four-day tournament, which started with a stroke-play qualifying round on Thursday and continued with two rounds of match play on Friday and Saturday. He made 26 pars, five birdies and just one bogey in the 32 holes he played yesterday, and in his 18-hole semifinal match, which he won, 6 and 5, Mitchell made 10 pars and four birdies.
"I think I got better as the tournament went on," said Mitchell, who won the 1999 WMGA Amateur championship by beating Steve Marino, his then-University of Virginia teammate and Scott's older brother, by the same score. "I'm not that surprised, but I'm very pleased with the way I played."
Yesterday Mitchell went 3 up through three holes thanks to a double bogey and two bogies by the 18-year-old Marino, who recently graduated from W.T. Woodson. Marino got back to 2 down three times during the match, but each time Mitchell answered by taking one of the next two holes to restore his cushion. Marino, who will play for James Madison University, played the first 11 holes of the second 18 in 3 under but gained no ground during that time.
"I hit some good shots," said Marino, who plays out of the Country Club of Fairfax. "He just hit it on top of me."
Mitchell, a two-time All-Met, graduated from the University of Virginia in 2001, turned pro shortly thereafter and played on the Canadian tour in 2002. He performed well, finishing 52nd on the tour's Order of Merit (money list) that year and would have gone to PGA Tour Qualifying School had he decided to stick with the sport.
"I don't think I loved it enough to do it forever, for 35, 30 years," Mitchell said. "And also, I just didn't want to be on the road for 40 weeks a year for the rest of my life. The lifestyle, people think it's glamorous, but it's not . . . Now I'm just playing to have fun."
And that is not good news for area amateurs.