James Mishoe IV (Photo submitted)
By Rick Woelfel
James Mishoe IV got his first taste of the Monroe Invitational a year ago. He was, to say the least, impressed – with the event itself and with the venue, Monroe Golf Club.
“I’d always been told it’s a great tournament,” he said. “It’s on an old Donald Ross course. It’s just a great tournament. It’s run really well and you see a lot of people you know.”
So with all that in mind, Mishoe, a native of Cary, N.C., will return to the Rochester suburb of Pittsford, N.Y., this week for the 79th edition of the Monroe, which gets underway Wednesday.
Mishoe, a senior-to-be at Guilford College in Greensboro N.C., has already accomplished a lot in 2019. He helped the Quakers to a third-place finish at the NCAA Division III National Championship and won the Old Dominion Conference individual title along the way. Mishoe himself was named a first-team Division III All-American and a Jack Nicklaus Award finalist.
The Guilford program historically has been one of the nation’s best. The Quakers claimed national championships in 2002 and 2004 and placed second in 2010 and 2017. They’ve been to the national tournament nine times in the past decade and 24 times in the 28 years since the school moved from the NAIA to the NCAA.
“At Guilford college it’s a tradition not just to make NCAAs but to play well,” Mishoe said.
Mishoe, who spent one semester at UNC-Greensboro before transferring to Guilford, notes that the caliber of play at the Division III level is outstanding.
“The people that play at the top of D-III aren’t really too much different than the players that play at mid-major D-I schools,” he said. “I think maybe that got (overlooked) when they were in junior golf and didn’t really play that good in front of (college coaches), just didn’t really impress anybody.”
At national amateur events, Mishoe and his Division III comrades are playing just as well as anyone.
Mishoe’s game took a big step forward this season when he recorded four runner-up finishes, set a school record by averaging 71 strokes per round and led the Golfstat Division III rankings for most of the year.
He says the key to his recent success was improvement on the greens.
“I really putted the ball really well all year,” he said. “I struggled somewhat last year and into the summer; I had too many three putts; you can’t be three-putting. I eliminated the big numbers, that was great for me. I played good golf for the rest of the semester.”
Mishoe says his mental game has evolved as well. He says watching and competing against more experienced players has accelerated that process. One of those players was former Guilford head coach Justin Tereshko, who took a job this season as the assistant coach at Louisville.
“Our old coach … was a great mid-am player,” Mishoe said. “That’s what I picked up from him on the mental side. He just didn’t make mistakes.
“College players make a lot of dumb mistakes out there. He just didn’t make mistakes and if you knock off a few bogeys over a tournament you’re always going to be better than you were.”
Mishoe has some of America’s classic golf courses on his must-play wish list, including Pebble Beach, Oakmont, Shinnecock Hills and Seminole. He also wants to play every course Tiger Woods and his design firm, TGR Design, have created.
He admits to a fascination with Monroe Golf Club, which opened for play on July 4, 1924. Architect Gil Hanse directed a bunker-renovation project in 2007-08 and a handful of new tees have been added in recent years, but Ross’s original design is largely intact.
“What really impressed me about it is I don’t know how they could have played that course with wooden clubs and a balata ball,” Mishoe says. “It had to be brutally impossible; it’s brutally hard as it is.”
But Mishoe, who tied for 58th last summer in his Monroe debut, says the layout, which plays to a maximum of 6,899 yards and a par of 72, is a fair test.
“It rewards good golf shots without having tricked up holes,” he said, “which I like. It rewards people that keep the ball on the fairways and on the greens.”
The Monroe Invitational was first played in 1937. The event was not held during World War II but has been played continuously since 1946. It was originally a match-play event but became a medal-play event over 72 holes in 1998.
Kevin O’ Connell is the defending champion. Like Mishoe, he is a native of Cary, N.C. O’Connell, who also won the U.S. Mid-Amateur last fall, is playing the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach this week.