WHEELERSBURG — It would be easy for Wheelersburg’s Mitchell McFarland to complain.
However, he simply considers it a blessing having had the chance to play Division I college golf.
That’s because the next time McFarland hits the links he will be teeing off, blasting out of the sand, or even sinking a putt as a University of Akron graduate.
McFarland, a 2016 Wheelersburg High School graduate and despite being granted by the NCAA an extra season of eligibility, will not execute his allowed additional spring season in 2021.
As Akron’s men’s golf season, like most collegiate golf seasons, spans the entire academic year with both fall AND spring events — the NCAA and Mid-American Conference canceled the 2020 spring season in mid-March amid the growing threat of the coronavirus.
Two weeks later, officially on March 30, the NCAA Division I Council voted to grant an extra year of eligibility to all student-athletes in spring sports whose seasons were in fact canceled.
But McFarland — a Political Science major — has said thanks but no thanks, and instead is focusing his time and energy towards President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign in Ohio.
He is the Field Organizer for Scioto County, and began working for Trump Victory at near the same time his senior season of golf got cut short.
“I am not using my (extra year) eligibility, it’s exhausted for me now, but I am glad they (NCAA) did that though for those who want to use it. I started working with Trump Victory about the middle of March. It has been really great, and we are working diligently, virtually, to secure our liberties as Americans for another four years,” said McFarland. “I enjoy the people that I work with and am excited to keep campaigning for the president.”
McFarland earned all-MAC academic accolades as a sophomore, and most recently was named to the Cleveland/Srixon All-American Academic Team.
But he swung the clubs just as well as he hit the books, as “the cool thing that attracted me to Akron was our home course Firestone Country Club.”
Firestone played host to the Bridgestone Invitational professional tournament in early August every year —usually the same weekend that the Pro Football Hall of Fame held its annual induction ceremony in nearby Canton.
In fact, McFarland made his collegiate debut at the Firestone Invitational, as he averaged anywhere from a 74.27 to an 80.33 per stroke average per season — playing anywhere from three to seven tournaments each time.
He fired a career-low 69 in the BearCat Invitational, and finished ninth overall in his first MAC Championship appearance as a sophomore (302, +14) — as he was the second-lowest scorer for Akron in 2018.
As a junior, he posted his lowest stroke average (74.27 in fall 2018 over 11 rounds) for a single season and collected a pair of Top-25 individual finishes — 22nd at the Firestone Invitational (217 +1) in which the Zips won and 11th in the Mountaineer Invitational (222, +6).
He actually completed the 2018-19 season as Akron’s third-leading scorer with a 75.44 stroke average over 27 rounds, shot three rounds of par or better, and paced the Zips in scoring in three tournaments.
The Zips were actually in Florida in March for their next event —but that next event, for McFarland or any other NCAA golfers, never happened.
“When we found out, we were heading to the course and stopped for lunch. At lunch, everything started happening. The NBA had suspended its season, then the SEC cancelled all sports, and then it was the NCAA. And we were all like ‘Well, are we still playing this week?’ It seemed like we would,” he said. “But we went from hoping we would be able to play that week to hoping we would even get to play in the fall. Gosh, it was just a whirlwind of emotions.”
As a result of the canceled season, McFarland — despite circumstances beyond his control — suddenly found himself out of his daily routine.
“I didn’t really know what to feel, but I was okay with it. I didn’t see the point in getting overly upset about it, because it was out of my control, and I know that all things are working for my good. Nonetheless, it was a very rigid adjustment,” he said. “Went from having structure and a routine everyday to sitting on the couch playing Xbox whenever I wanted. Very weird.”
Speaking of video games, McFarland went low with such numbers at Wheelersburg.
In winning match medalist 52 times, he set school records for the Pirates — including the lowest scoring average at 34.66 strokes, the lowest nine-hole round with a 28, and the lowest 18-hole round with a 67.
He was the first-ever four-time Southern Ohio Conference Player of the Year, a four-time all-Southeast District honoree, and a four-time Pirate MVP.
On the American Junior Golf Association circuit, he was named Golfweek Midwest Tour Player of the Year in 2013, winning eight tournaments while shooting a lifetime-best 66 at Delaware Country Club in Muncie, Ind.
McFarland finished in the top-25 of 32 tournaments, including 10 top-5 finishes and seven top-10 placements.
A USGA junior qualifier, he captured third-place at the 2014 Golfweek Midwest Invitational.
“I did well in high school golf at Wheelersburg and in a few AJGA tournaments that gave me some national attention from college coaches,” said McFarland.
Ultimately, McFarland chose Akron without regret or complaint — and will leave the university the same way with even an extra spring still on the table.
“I just want to say thank you to my parents who are the best, the Elks Country Club and all those who play out there, all my friends and teammates from Akron, the Athletic Department at Akron and most of all God for giving me the ability and opportunity to play college golf,” he said.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved