Women of the Sandhills: Golf Is an Adventure for Mitchell
This is one in a series of articles on Sandhills women in golf.
Elisabeth “Betsey” Mitchell is a relative newcomer to the Pinehurst area, but has rapidly become an integral part of the golf scene in the Carolinas.
Mitchell and her husband, Dick, who is also an avid golfer, are residents of Pinewild Country Club. She plays to a handicap of 14 and loves being involved with the game on more levels than just playing.
She works as a volunteer rules official for the Carolinas Golf Association, served as executive editor of The Golf Record of the Carolinas, and recently completed a two-year term as president of the Carolinas Golf Reporters Association.
She also currently co-writes a popular monthly column, “Dueling Divots,” for Golf Triad and Golf Triangle Magazines.
Q. I know you’re a native of Pennsylvania, but would you talk a little about your background?
A. Actually, I was born in Massachusetts, the fifth of six children. We moved from life on dairy farms to the town of Doylestown, Pa., when I was 6. Lived there until I was 20, when I moved into my first apartment in Philadelphia. I skipped college (much to my parents’ annoyance) but had a successful career in data processing. That’s how I met Dick.
Q. You and your husband, Dick, moved to St. James Plantation near Southport several years ago. Why did you choose that location?
A. We were moving from central Ohio and were looking for a long golf season without the heavy summer heat of the more Southern states.
Q. How did you become so interested in golf, and why did you decide to get involved with the game other than playing?
A. Dick played first. When we first married, he would play golf on Saturdays while I stayed home to do the housework. It didn’t take long for me to figure out who got the short end of that stick!
The next season I had my own clubs. I didn’t get serious about the game until we moved to Ohio and I was playing in regular club events. Too many women charged me with penalties that didn’t exist (I would find out later). I started learning the rules in self defense.
Q. Talk a little about your decision to spend a year working with the Carolinas Golf Association in West End while still residing at St. James.
A. My relationship with the CGA began as a volunteer USGA course rater. When they asked for applicants for that year’s P.J. Boatwright internship, I applied — mostly on a lark. I was bored and it sounded like fun.
I was surprised when I got the gig. It was a fun year and led to a regular staff job. I had to give it up when Dick had another opportunity in Maryland and we thought we would be moving out of North Carolina.
Q. What do you enjoy most about living in Pinehurst?
A. It just feels like home. We’ve been married 38 years and have had 14 addresses. I clearly remember walking back up the driveway about a week after we moved to Pinewild and saying out loud, “I really love it here.” Besides our home, I love the village, the view when driving up N.C. 5 of the Pinehurst Resort veranda; it is just an easy place to be.
Q. You’ve developed into a fluent golf writer over the past few years and even owned and published The Golf Record of the Carolinas briefly. How did that happen?
A. I’m blaming it all on you, Howard Ward. We met at my first annual meeting of the North Carolina Golf Panel.
Howard, you may remember giving me a current copy of The Golf Record of the Carolinas. I remember asking you if the issue — which had no coverage of women’s golf — was just that issue or par for the course. You suggested that I be the voice of women’s golf in future publications. The rest is history.
Q. You do a lot of volunteer work for the CGA. Why do you enjoy this role so much?
A. Amateur golf is not possible without volunteers. My continuing education in the rules of golf not only improves my own game, but it allows me to be confident when assisting other players. Most rules officials have a hard time explaining why they do it. It can be hours of relative boredom spiked with moments of exhilaration. It is very satisfying to see a player relax when helped through a relief procedure.
Q. If you could change one thing about the game of golf, what it would be?
A. I have a long wish list that would improve pace of play. Daily play golfers get glued to the cart seat watching the other players. Walk that 25 yards to your ball and be ready to hit. College level players are trapped in their pre-shot routines. I am convinced that the over-analysis of shots paralyzes the player’s innate ability.
The dominance of stroke play has added lots of time to the game. There used to be a lot more match play, alternate shot, and Stableford. All of these games move along much more quickly.
Q. What one thing in the game irritates or concerns you most?
A. The only thing that really irritates me is my ingrained ability to come up out of a fairway wood shot. I am queen of the 100-yard putt in the fairway. What concerns me is that golf keeps getting more expensive and not enough new players are coming into the game.
Q. Can you name one experience or person who has been a major motivating factor in your love of the game?
A. Just one? You’re killing me. My first club pro, Bob Mann, taught me the importance of embracing a bad lie, respecting the importance of good putting, and remembering that even the best professionals hit at least seven bad shots per round. It’s a lot easier to love this game if you remember you will never be perfect.
Q. What do you see yourself doing in the future? Are you satisfied with the things you’re doing, or do you want to become more involved in some manner?
A. Everything I do now is a surprise. I did not seek to be a writer, but I write. I have had the privilege of organizing the last two Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame events. In a couple of weeks I will start a run of volunteer work with the junior girls of the Carolinas — the best gig ever.
When the 2014 U.S. Opens come to town, I’m sure there will be all sorts of opportunities. As I regularly tell my friends, I am a lucky woman. Something interesting always turns up. The sign over my office door reads, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
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