Cheryl-Mitchell-Backswing

A Q&A with American Indian Golf Star Cheryl Mitchell

Cheryl Mitchell, Potawatomi Nation, has recently accepted one of two local exemptions for the Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass, in Michigan, competing against 149 other LPGA Futures Tours golfers, on June 24-26.

The 32-year old Mitchell turned pro in 2004, but the majority of her time these past seven years has been focused on a different course—her family, which includes two children.

Mitchell is ready to get back on the pro circuit.  The Island Resort Championship is a step in that direction.  She’s not only playing for her adoring children and husband, she’s also playing for Indian Country.  “To be chosen because I am Native American is an honor,” she said in a press release, “and to accept it for our People will show children that it can be done—you can follow your dreams.”

We caught up with Mitchell and asked her to tell us a bit about her childhood, her passion for golf, and what the future may hold for this promising, can-do-it-all linkswoman.

How did you get into golfing? I started golfing at the age of 9. Both of my parents golf as well as my older brother Steve. I used to watch my brother Steve play in junior golf events and when I saw a few girls playing I wanted to play as well. As far as meeting Nancy Lopez, I am not so sure. I cannot recall meeting her when I was a little girl but that is who I wanted to take after. I can remember going to the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic and watching the lady professionals play and suddenly had an itch to golf.

Are there any other sports you played growing up? Throughout high school I played volleyball, golf, badminton and basketball. I also played tennis with my brother.

Can you tell us about your background? I am Potawatomi, Ojibwa and Delaware. I am not the only female golf professional in North America as I know of one other who just turned professional. However, I am the first North American Indian to play in a LPGA sanctioned event. I belong to the Walpole Island First Nation (Bkejwanong -where the waters divide) in Ontario, Canada. (This island is home to the Potawatomi, Ojibwa and Delaware.)

Where did you go to college, and what was it like to leave home? I got a full ride golf scholarship to Kent State University in Kent, OH. At the time we were an inaugural women’s team. We won our Mid American Continent Conference every year I was there. When I went to college, life was very different than living at home on the reservation. There was a lot more structure involved, as a student athlete many days were missed because of golf tournaments and travel time. There was a lot of pressure (put on by myself) to play well and do good in school (at the time I was in the Nursing Program). I was lonely but the school work made me very busy. I gained what they call the “Freshman 15” because food was plentiful. So, apart from the busy golf schedule, practice times, study times, tutors and student athlete meetings I didn’t have much time to sit and feel too lonely. By the time my sophomore year came around I lost the Freshman 15 and then some. I eventually transferred to Oakland University in Rochester, Ohio to be closer to my family and still play on the golf team. So, for two and a half years I played for Kent State and the other year and a half I played for Oakland University.

I met my husband Robert at Oakland University (in Stats class) and lived in Michigan for a few years.

Cheryl Mitchell Backswing

Cheryl Mitchell after a well struck drive

I won the 2003 Ontario Ladies Amateur (which was the highlight of my amateur career) and then found out I was pregnant with my son Robert Jr. at the time. I turned professional the following year and played on the Futures Tour and Canadian Tour. In 2007, I became pregnant with my daughter Rheanna and decided to take a break from golf. Now that my son is 7 and daughter 3 I am ready to get back into the swing of things (no pun intended). I can now commit to a full practice schedule and have no more diapers or bottles to worry about.

What happens now that you’re getting back into the swing of things (pun intended)? If I get the necessary funding I plan on attending the LPGA Tour qualifier (which has 3 sections) as well as the LPGA Futures Tour qualifying. This summer I am playing the CN Women’s Tour events and an event on the LPGA Futures Tour (as I just received the sponsors exemption to play).

Who are the golfers you enjoy watching? I love watching Phil Mickelson play on the PGA Tour because the guy has a lot of class. I also enjoyed watching Notah Begay III because he is Native American (which gave me a sense of pride) and because he had such a unique putting style.

Do you have a specific shot you can remember, a favorite? I did have a double eagle while playing with my high school girls team. I can remember it clearly …a dogleg left and I hit driver and then used my 3 wood and it took a couple of bounces and went in the hole. So I scored a 2 on a par 5.

Also, in my lifetime I’ve had two holes in one.

For more information on the tournament, including ticketing information, click here.

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