26 January 2006

Cheryl Tooshkenig (Potawatomi)...

Now I have a reason to watch golf...


Professional golf tour is Mitchell's goal
© Indian Country Today
January 18, 2006. All Rights Reserved
Posted: January 18, 2006
by: Jack McNeel / Indian Country Today

ROCHESTER, Mich. - Cheryl Tooshkenig Mitchell, Potawatomi, wants to be the first First Nations woman to play on the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour: and she is on the brink of reaching that goal.

Mitchell qualified for the Futures Tour, the official developmental tour of the LPGA, during a qualifier tournament in Lakeland, Fla. in November. Playing in the Futures Tour over the next several months should provide the experience she needs.

Eighteen tournaments will be held between March 10 and Sept. 10, with a total of $1.35 million in purses - the highest ever in the Futures Tour's more than 25 years. Tournaments range from Arizona to Florida to the New England states, with 13 different states holding tournaments.

Zyra Calderon, president and CEO of the Futures Tour, is quoted on the tour's Web site as saying ''a dynamic and record-setting 2006 season'' is expected, following last year's record numbers. The top five golfers at the end of this tour will have earned LPGA cards. Mitchell hopes to be one of those five.

Mitchell is from the Walpole Island Reserve in Ontario, Canada, located on the U.S. border. ''I started playing golf when I was 10,'' she said. She would go with her parents, Bill and Shirley Tooshkenig, to a driving range to hit some balls ''and kind of [take] it from there,'' she added. There's a golf course about five minutes from the reserve and a Walpole Island League, so many people in the community are golfers. ''In high school I played golf, basketball, volleyball and badminton, but golf was always my main focus,'' she said.

Mitchell started college at Kent State University on a full scholarship and remained there for two and a half years before transferring to Oakland University in Michigan, still on a full golf scholarship. It was during this time that she met and married Robert Mitchell. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology while shooting ''about a 75 - 76 average'' in golf. She has continued toward a master's degree in counseling, but has reduced the course load in order to give more attention to golf. She'll continue with a reduced load through the spring semester and then concentrate totally on achieving a professional golf career.

Her college career is dotted with awards and recognition. She was chosen Mid-Continent Conference Golf Athlete of the Week more than once and set school records for her low averages. She led her team in scoring in five straight tournaments. She won the 2003 Ontario Ladies Amateur Championship.

''I'd definitely like to do golf as a career,'' she commented. ''I believe my game has gotten to that level with the Morgan Pressels and the Michelle Wies, but I just need the experience now. That's why I went the Futures Tour route: to get a year's experience and hopefully qualify for the LPGA Tour in September.''

The costs of travel and competing can be considerable; and she acknowledged the help she's received from the Dreamcatcher Fund. The Ohsweken, Ontario-based organization aids First Nations individuals and groups, not only in sports but also in education, health, water quality, and arts and culture. Since its inception in August 2004, almost $2 million has been given to over 500 applicants. Mitchell's older brother, Steve, serves as her manager and helps to line up sponsors as well.

Golf is going to be her main focus in the foreseeable future and, hopefully, for many years to come. But should she not be as successful as she hopes, she will have her college education to fall back on. ''I want to see how golfing goes and have counseling as a backup. If that happens, I'd want to go back to Walpole Island and help the people, the community,'' she said.

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