Mitchell aims for cooler head

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

They say the last shall be first but Canadian pro golfer Cheryl (Tooshkenig) Mitchell never realized that statement would apply to her so literally.

The 27-year-old from Walpole Island made history by becoming the first golfer of First Nations heritage to compete in an LPGA Tour tournament when she teed off in the final group of yesterday's opening round at the Canadian Women's Open.

As the crowds dispersed and dusk settled in at a quiet London Hunt Club last night, Mitchell signed her scorecard for an unappetizing 80 -- disappointing for a woman who came to the Forest City with so many hopes and dreams.

"I never thought my emotions would get to me like that but they did," said Mitchell, who teed off at 2:12 p.m. yesterday. "You think you're ready to go and your heart goes into your kidneys and you're like, 'Wow.' I never usually let that happen to me."

The normally cool, collected ball-hitter started her round with a tee shot in the water to the left of the fairway on her first hole, the 10th at the Hunt Club.

"I put it in the water there and I shot an eight and I couldn't recover from it," Mitchell said. "It was me against me out there and I didn't win. I needed to give myself a smack in the head. I'm trying to learn some things out there but I have to be better than I was."

With her family on hand, Mitchell vowed to put together a better round today before preparing for the CPGA championship. The representative of the Potawatomii Delaware/Chippewa tribe is believed to be the second native Canadian woman to become a pro golfer after Winnipeg's Donna Mathieson, who appeared in a Monday qualifier for the 2004 Canadian Women's Open in Niagara Falls.

"I want to give myself some momentum so it would mean a lot to me to go out there (today) and post a low score," Mitchell said.

A Michigan resident who studied psychology at Oakland University, Mitchell squeaked into this week's tournament on an exemption from the Royal Canadian Golf Association.

She finished one-and-a-half points ahead of veteran Mary Ann Lapointe, who also received a late entry and played in the same threesome as Mitchell yesterday.

"Heading into Ottawa (on the Canadian Tour), I was 13th in points and never thought I'd get in," Mitchell said. "But I said I better go back and check and I was in. It helped that Salimah Mussani won both (tour stops) because it opened up another spot."

Mitchell's 80 wasn't the highest score by a Canadian.

Tough-luck veteran A. J. Eathorne, who played yesterday despite a wrist injury, carded an 84 and withdrew from the tournament.


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