Cancer Survivor Father, Wounded Warrior Son, Shine in GAM Senior Mid-Am Team Championship
FARMINGTON HILLS – The father-son duo of John and Josh Mitroka of Riverview embraced in celebration when they realized they had bested the field in the GAM Senior Mid-Am Team Championship at Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club Monday
“It was euphoric considering what we’ve both been through,” said John who is 57 and recently retired as a high school teacher.
“To have that moment where you couldn’t put a bigger smile on my dad’s face was so great,” said Josh who is 27 and working as court officer with plans for a law enforcement career.
Both men are coming off bigger victories. John has battled through colon cancer, which was originally a terminal diagnosis and it included multiple surgeries and treatments.
Josh is a wounded warrior, a former U.S. Army paratrooper with back and multiple leg and ankle injuries as well as unseen issues because of things he witnessed in active duty.
“Battling on a golf course with your son and winning like that when I basically had a death sentence; and he has physical injuries from hitting the ground at about 40 miles per hour on a jump, and then there are the things he saw overseas that he doesn’t want to talk about; it was just so special,” John said.
Team Mitroka shot a 74 in the alternate shot format, but a solid 69 in best-ball for 143 to take the top spot at Grosse Ile. Six teams, the top two from each of three sites, earned spots in the Senior Mid-Am Finals scheduled for the North course at Oakland Hills Country Club on Friday, Sept. 15.
The complete field included 264 golfers with 44 teams at each site, and each team consisted of one senior golfer age 55-plus paired up with a mid-amateur player age 25-plus. The teams played 18 holes of four-ball or best-ball in the morning and 18 holes of foursomes, also known as alternate shot, in the afternoon.
“It was just so great to be playing golf again with my dad,” Josh said. “He’s always been a teacher and coach (Wyandotte Roosevelt High School). He recently retired from teaching, and my brother and I started playing golf with him when were like five. Both of us played college golf at Wayne State.
“Dad just fought cancer, things like a 13-hour surgery, just really tough stuff. Playing golf, competing with him, trying our best, it was just great. We tried to win. We didn’t really expect it and we bogeyed the last two holes in alternate shot, but you know I thought I’m alive, he’s alive, and we are playing golf. It was wonderful.”
John said he lives day-to-day, and that Josh is home and healing.
“We were paired with Doug Anderson and his son Ryan, and Doug and I were talking about being parents and getting to do something we love and share it with our kids,” he said. “We were competing like crazy, and who better to do it with than your kid. Whatever happens happens. We’re the lucky ones.”
John said he and his son used their recent battles to help in the golf battle.
“I told Josh that cancer couldn’t beat me, and that he had to suck it up and pick his old man up,” he said. “He did it. We did it. You know, out there we are nobody, but we could do the best we could and have fun. We did that.”
In addition to the Mitroka team heading to the finals in September, the runner-up team at Grosse Ile was Joe Marx of Holland and Casey Lubahn, the head men’s golf coach at Michigan State University. They shot a 68 in the four-ball for a 146 total.
Mike Raymond and Adam White of Jackson were the top team at Oakland University’s Katke-Cousins course. They had a four-ball 66 to power a winning 138 total. Mike Anderson of Northville and Rick Herpich of Orchard Lake also punched their tickets to the finals by finishing second at 141.
Tom Gieselman of Commerce Township and Scott Strickland of Birmingham teamed up for a sizzling 64 in four-ball to shoot 138 and win at Plum Hollow Country Club. Tom Werkmeister of Grandville and Mike Kohn of Belding shot 141 for second and a spot in the finals.
Two hole-in-ones were recorded at Plum Hollow during the tournament. Gieselman and Kevin Kirkland of Northville each aced the par 3 No. 12 hole.
“Now we get to look forward to playing Oakland Hills (in the finals),” John said. “Shows what can happen when you just believe and you battle.”
Complete scores can be found at gam.org under the championships tab.
via Greg Johnson