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The retirement announcement of Kent State women's varsity golf coach Mike Morrow caught everyone by surprise. Morrow has been synonymous with Kent State and the greater Portage County area his entire life and has received numerous accolades and awards already well-documented on the Kent State sports website and in the Record-Courier.
Certificates, plaques and trophies do not begin to cover Morrow's contribution to golf -- both locally and nationally.
My golfing children grew up at the Kent State University golf course.
All three, still a part of the golfing community, started working at Kent State while in middle school, washing carts and putting them away in exchange for the opportunity to hone their golfing skills on the course.
Hundreds of youth golfers in Portage County can say the same thing.
While many youths had nothing to do at night, young would-be golfers spent long afternoons and evenings at Kent State, forging friendships and learning much more about work and responsibility than just how to wash a golf cart.
Starters and rangers became part of the family. Whether it be the one who became like a grandpa or another who became affectionately known as Papa.
Every time I stepped into the clubhouse, someone was asking about our children because they cared.
Our children became friends with adults spanning the generations.
Our children, now adults, didn't go far away to college, but they had the opportunity to play great country clubs and golf courses. It didn't matter. When they came home, their first stop was always the Kent State golf course to see Mike Morrow and their extended golfing family.
The Kent State University golf course was a family affair as Mike, his wife and daughters, a constant presence, opened their arms to welcome everyone.
The Matt Mishler Junior Amateur made its home for the past four years at Kent State University Golf Course. Much of the success of the Junior Amateur can be attributed to Mike Morrow and his love of golf. He was not just the host PGA professional at the course, the young golfers and parents all knew he loved the kids.
Often on the course to help junior golfers understand the complicated rules, Morrow made every junior golfer feel special. He was patient, kind and always the teacher, once even taking a group of 10 year olds back on the course to recreate a hole so they could remember the score.
His Golden Flashes are the only women's team to ever hold ownership of the Mid-American Conference women's championship. While the Kent State women's golf team played a remarkably tough schedule prior to the MAC championships, Morrow always cited the improvement of the other teams in the MAC and was a gracious coach -- right before his women's team would often have the other eight teams clobbered by the end of the second day.
His focus was always to advance the sport -- wanting the women's coaches inside the MAC to improve the game, add an additional 18 holes to the 36-hole tournament to create a competitive test for everyone and enhance fair rules to speed up play that helped all of the collegiate women golfers.
My son once said when someone on his team was wishing another player a double-bogey, "Stop it. You want everyone to play their best and then you beat them."
That is the ultimate in sportsmanship and it is Mike Morrow. At the MAC Tournament, Morrow would seek out the golfers scoring the best rounds to congratulate them. Seeing him in action at the tournaments, it was obvious the coaches across the conference looked up to him and valued his opinion and coaching abilities.
I wish Mike and his family all the best in his retirement. I hope he will still be involved in the golfing community. If he isn't, it is a loss for all of us.