27 years old
With his first PGA win under his belt, Keith Mitchell is heating up. A former Baylor School standout who earned his tour card in 2017 following impressive runs on the Latin American and Web.com tours, he says he’s learned more from the hard times than the celebratory ones. But given Mitchell’s level of talent, it looks like he and his caddie, fellow Chattanoogan Pete Persolja, will have a lot to celebrate this season.
CS: When did you start getting interested in golf?
KM: Probably age 2 or 3. I’ve never remembered not playing golf, honestly. I really started because the head pro at the golf course in Chattanooga was my best friend’s dad, so we would go out on the course all the time to play around.
CS: Who had the biggest influence on your game back in high school?
KM: Definitely Coach Oehmig. We called him Reverend Coach Oehmig because he was an episcopal teacher by trade and a golf coach for fun. I’ll never forget – as the varsity coach he came out to my 6th grade match at Moccasin Bend. I was a good three years from playing on the varsity team, but he was already coming out to support us anyway. He was just a great influence on young minds.
CS: Were there players you looked up to when you were younger?
KM: Of course Tiger Woods. I also looked up to Sergio Garcia a lot. He was the young guy on tour when I was little, and he was always fun to watch. Luke List kind of blazed the first big trail at Baylor, and then Harris English after him.
So I had a lot of superstars I looked up to, but then also some other guys whose shoes
I was just hoping to fill in high school.
CS: What’s the hardest thing about being on the PGA tour?
KM: Thirty to 40 weeks a year, you’re in an airport. You’re packing a suitcase every week, staying physically and mentally prepared to play your best. When you’re playing against the best guys in the entire world, you have to perform your best
CS: What would you consider your biggest golfing accomplishment to date?
KM: Winning the Honda Classic, for sure. I always felt like I was playing to win that day – I was never scared of losing, if that makes sense. Once I made that putt on 18, it all sunk in that it had happened. I was thinking about my shots, my course management, my preparation all day. At our level, it’s probably 50% mental and 50% physical. But when you’re trying to win a tournament coming down the stretch, it’s 100% mental.