Mykhailo Golod became a 15-year-old again on Monday. The tall, thin teenager who last week had desperately fled the war in Ukraine with his mother found himself at TPC Sawgrass and was introduced to a hearty chorus of cheers as an honorary observer at THE PLAYERS Championship.
Mykhailo Golod, statements
“It’s a moment I will remember for a long time,” said Misha, who rode the first nine holes of the final round inside the ropes with world number one Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Doc Redman.
The four-time Ukrainian junior champion was on the iconic 17th hole to see his favorite player, Rory McIlroy, birdie as well. He also met Joaquin Niemann, Viktor Hovland and Harold Varner III. [varner-misha-1694]
Harold Varner III with Mykhailo Golod at TPC Sawgrass during THE PLAYERS Championship.
(PGA TOUR) For a few blessed hours, the sound of bombs crashing into buildings and shrill air raid sirens that blared 20-30 times a day to alert him and his family to more devastation on the horizon could be, well, not forgotten because it will never happen, but at least compartmentalised.
And in a 20-minute phone conversation as Misha waited for McIlroy to arrive at the 17th tee, it was clear the teenager was grateful for how the golf community came together within days to ease his exodus from Ukraine. and help him establish a temporary home in Florida.
The saga began two weeks ago with an article by Joel Beall in Golf Digest. Among those affected by Misha’s situation was golf instructor David Leadbetter, who reached out to his longtime friend Jim Nugent, who sits on the board of the American Junior Golf Association.
At Nugent’s urging, the AJGA started a fundraiser to help Misha with his expenses. The campaign kickoff was a five-figure contribution from the Country Club of North Carolina, which last summer hosted the U.S.
Junior Amateur — and Misha, the first Ukrainian to play in the national championship. The TOUR and the other major golf organizations have also collaborated with UNICEF to raise funds to help the war-torn country through Golfers For Ukraine.
Leadbetter offered Misha a scholarship for his golf academy. A sophomore at an international high school in Kyiv, Misha – who is fluent in Ukrainian, Russian, English and Spanish – will complete the year remotely and then enroll in a local school.
His dream is to play golf in college, and he realizes that the events of the past two weeks have reinforced that possibility. But there is a caveat, always a caveat, when you have seen your country reduced to rubble and ruins.
“I’m very happy with the opportunity I had to come to Florida to be in an academy to pursue my goals,” Misha said. “But at the same time, I’m very worried about my family and friends back home.
“So I’ll always have to think positive, and I’ll always have to think that this is going to end soon and I’m going to bring my family here with me.” While in the United States, Misha will stay with Leadbetter’s assistant.
His mother, Vita, returned to Ukraine on Sunday to be with her husband, Oleg, and their elderly parents. “It was difficult, but I wanted to go through it very quickly, so I don’t get emotional,” says Misha. “And it wasn’t goodbye, it was ‘see you’ because I knew I was going to see her soon after it was all over.
“She and my dad are going to come and visit me regularly, once everything opens up, and I really hope that happens as soon as possible.” Misha says February 24, the day the Russians unprovoked invaded Ukraine and sparked a humanitarian and military crisis, was the “worst morning of my life.”
Oleg had gone to join his own father, who had just been released from the hospital. He planned to stay several days to settle his father and help around the house. Misha’s phone rang in the wee hours of the morning.
“His first words were: ‘The war has begun. I will be back. I’m going home,” recalls Misha. “I didn’t really understand what was going on because it was 5am and then I heard the news.
“I saw that Russia had declared war and already missiles were flying over the border. First they hit military buildings in Ukraine, then of course they started hitting civilians. So it went downhill from there.”
Misha woke up her mother and told her the news. “It was just awful,” he recalls. Like many, Misha had thought – and fervently hoped – that the Russians had just gathered at the border for a show of power.
After all, it was not the first time in his short life that the two countries had been at odds. In 2014, Misha, her mother and her older sister Vitalina fled to New York, where they stayed for a year, to escape the fighting.
“I thought they were just trying to scare everyone,” Misha says. “I didn’t think they would attack Ukraine, but that’s what’s happening right now. “It’s inexplicable. They attack their neighbor.
They attack people who share the language with them. And they kill people. They kill little children. So it’s awful what’s going on there right now.” After the war began, Misha essentially hunkered down at his home, about 10 miles from kyiv, taking online classes at the international school he attended.
Most of the teachers were American and had been evacuated but they still posted lessons for their students. He couldn’t play golf, of course, a sport he finds almost meditative. He had a putting simulator in the basement where the family went to escape the unnerving sounds of war.
He could watch tournaments on the computer. He read books and did his homework. “I wouldn’t go out at all,” he said. “I slept in the basement because we heard air raid sirens almost every morning.
… I’ll just be home. Luckily we still had wi-fi, we had electricity, water, food supplies. “So luckily we were able to live there as long as we didn’t hear any explosions near the house. But when we started hearing, we just left.”