Ultimate inside the ropes access

Jun. 16, 2014 @ 03:12 AM

Pinehurst Resort and Country Club golf pro Kelly Mitchum already owns an incredible list of titles and accolades in the sport.

He's played in a U.S. Open - 1995 at Shinnecock Hills. He's played in four PGA Championships, most recently in 2012 via tying for second in the PGA Professional National Championship. Mitchum's a six-time Carolinas PGA Championship winner.

So Sunday's round at Pinehurst No. 2 was great fun. It happened to be in the U.S. Open. Mitchum won't take credit for counting it as his second U.S. Open.

"(I) tried to qualify here and didn't make it through the local stage," he said.

So how did he scramble together a tee time on such a busy course? He almost didn't. He was lucky he thought to check his phone Saturday night.

Mitchum, who's the lead instructor at the Pinehurst Golf Academy, was a marker along with Toru Taniguchi, the first official player to begin play at 9:32 a.m. Sunday.

When an odd number of players make the cut, the lone solo player at the tail end of the field often opts to have a player join him for the general sake of routine and rhythm.

Mitchum was home Saturday, watching the last part of the U.S. Open, after being at Pinehurst during the day. His phone buzzed. He didn't check it for awhile.

"They probably went through 100 other guys and I was the only one available," he said.

He said, though, he had a slight idea this could happen. He was asked to be ready, but didn't get to play, in 1999 and 2005.

The result was "embarrassing, in a good way," Mitchum said, with nothing to do with how he played.

He shot a 79. What Mitchum was talking about was all the fan support he had on the course.

"The crowd's super nice. If I hit a good shot, you know, they applauded me like I was in the field," he said.

Of course many of the local spectators know Mitchum quite a bit better than a majority of the pros who'd made it to Sunday.

"I was going around acknowledging (the gallery) for a lot of the day. It was a touch embarrassing, I guess, but very nice."

He carded birdies on No. 9 and No. 13.

"Thirteen is a driveable par four today (Sunday), except for me, but I'd never played the hole from that tee," said Mitchum, who's worked at Pinehurst during all three U.S. Opens and won the 1993 North and South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst.

"I hit some good shots. I made a couple birdies. I made a couple doubles, too. But the crowd support, people yelling my name, I almost kind of felt a little bit bad," he said.

In all, it was about the best volunteer task one could think of to help the U.S. Open out.