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New job forced Mitchell to miss Rosauers

From the hole-in-one eventual champion Corey Prugh made on the difficult par-3 eighth hole at Indian Canyon Golf course, to the three days of near-perfect weather and the dramatic three-stroke swing between Prugh and second-round co-leader Tim Feenstra on the closing hole, last weekend’s Rosauers Open Invitational had it all – almost.

What it didn’t have was an entry form from two-time champion Chris Mitchell, who was a no-show for the first time in the 24 years the prestigious Pacific Northwest PGA sectional event has been held.

Mitchell, a North Central High School graduate and one-time assistant pro at Indian Canyon, is a two-time Rosauers champion, having captured the title in 1989 and 1992.

But he decided to skip the event this year while settling into his new job as Director of Golf at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

“It was a big disappointment not being there,” the 54-year-old Mitchell said during a recent phone interview. “Growing up in Spokane and playing in the old Lilac (Invitational) and the Rosauers back to back, and the Oregon Open right before those, always seemed kind of like the official start of the golf season for me.

“I felt bad about missing it, because I love to come back home and play – and because Indian Canyon is one golf course I can still play pretty decent on. But I decided this year to get settled here (at Sherwood) and get everything under control, because it’s been a little hectic.”

Mitchell, after a brief stint as the head professional at Sun Dance Golf Course, left the area to become the head professional at Portland Golf Club, where he spent the past 11 golf seasons. But after learning of the opening at Sherwood Country Club, interviewing for the position on two occasions and ultimately being offered the job last December, he decided to make the move, along with his wife, Nicole, and their son, Alex, who’s about to turn seven.

“I think any time you’re at a private club for 11 or 12 years, you’ve probably made your mark and done all you can do,” Mitchell said of his decision to leave Portland. “It wasn’t that I was bored with my job there. It’s just that there weren’t a lot of challenges left.”

Another factor was that the Portland Golf Club’s board of directors was not allowing him as much time to play competitively as he would have preferred.

“I’ve always felt like playing was one of the main reasons I got into the golf business, and they had kind of nailed down my schedule to where I wasn’t getting to play in many tournaments,” he said.

It helped, too, that Sherwood Country Club, which was designed by Jack Nicklaus and is the host venue for the Tiger Woods Foundation/Chevron World Challenge that will be held Nov. 30-Dec. 4 this year, is one of the top private courses in California.

Mitchell and his staff are already making preparations for this year’s World Challenge in anticipation of Woods being healthy enough to participate and perhaps improve on his second-place finish last year, when he lost in a playoff to Graeme McDowell.

Mitchell said the Tiger Woods Foundation handles most of the organizational duties involved with putting on a big-time event like the World Challenge, which drew close to 60,000 spectators last year.

“But our club is heavily involved in the pro-am event that precedes it,” Mitchell said. “We order and sell all of the merchandise and set that up, and we’ve already started getting those orders ready.

“Hopefully, Tiger will be healthy and ready to go again this year, because his presence is a real key to the event. And it looks like he will be.”

The media crush, especially if Woods competes, will be something new for Mitchell, who is looking forward to his involvement in the event. But other than that, his new duties at Sherwood are similar to those he had back in Portland.

“I’m probably a little more visible in my job down here,” Mitchell said. “I can do a little more teaching, and I’m a little more out front with the guests and stuff. But it feels like about the same job.”

By next summer, Mitchell hopes to be well enough organized to return to Spokane – where he still has family and friends – and compete in the Rosauers again. But to do so, he will need a special exemption from either host professional Gary Lindeblad or the title sponsor of the event, because he is no longer a member of the Pacific Northwest PGA Section.

“I know they’ve got some guys from the desert, like (last year’s champion) Kyle Kelly, they let in,” Mitchell said. “So, hopefully, I can get my schedule here worked out, get an exemption and get back to the Canyon to play again next year.

“At least that’s the game plan right now.”

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