“You would never meet a nicer person in your life,” Danville Golf Club board member Harry Lea said. “He was always willing to help.
“What a great guy and a gentleman to the truest word.”
Mitchell’s best years on the PGA Tour were in 1971 and 1972 when he won his only two events. He won the 1971 Cleveland Open by seven strokes over Charles Coody, and he defeated Jack Nicklaus on the first playoff hole in the 1972 Tournament of Champions. Mitchell then finished in a tie for second in the 1972 Masters.
“That’s pretty amazing,” former Averett golf coach John Franklin said of Mitchell’s performance in the ’72 Masters.
“He is certainly one of the best golfers to come out of Danville,” said Wright Garrett, one of Mitchell’s closest friends who also played on the PGA Tour in the 1960s. “What he did on the PGA Tour, nobody else from Danville ever came close to doing that.”
Franklin coached the Cougars from 2008 to 2014, and Mitchell served as a volunteer assistant for the last several seasons of Franklin’s tenure after previously serving as Danville Community College’s first golf coach when the program was founded in 2009.
Franklin credited Mitchell’s decades of going to Finland during the summer to teach golf with the influx of talent on the Averett golf team from the country. (The opportunity to teach golf in Finland was made possible through former AU Athletic Director Vesa Hiltunen, a native of Finland.)
Mitchell began going to Finland each summer beginning in 1991, and seven players from Finland have graced the AU roster since 2010.
“He was instrumental in having some of those kids come to Averett and play golf,” Franklin said.
Mitchell grew up in the community of Wedgewood near DGC and, similar to Garrett, became a caddie at DGC at a young age before working in the pro shop for Smith.