Cancer Survivor Father, Wounded Warrior Son, Shine inGAM Senior Mid-Am Team Championship

In photo: John Mitroka, left, and his son Josh, hold trophies from topping the field at Grosse Ile Monday.

father-son duo of John and Josh Mitroka of Riverview embraced in celebration when
they realized they had bested the field in the GAM Senior Mid-Am Team Championship
at Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club Monday

  “It was euphoric
considering what we’ve both been through,” said John who is 57 and recently
retired as a high school teacher.

   “To have that moment where you couldn’t put a
bigger smile on my dad’s face was so great,” said Josh who is 27 and working as
court officer with plans for a law enforcement career.

   Both men are coming
off bigger victories. John has battled through colon cancer, which was
originally a terminal diagnosis and it included multiple surgeries and

   Josh is a wounded
warrior, a former U.S. Army paratrooper with back and multiple leg and ankle
injuries as well as unseen issues because of things he witnessed in active duty.

  “Battling on a golf course with your son and
winning like that when I basically had a death sentence; and he has physical
injuries from hitting the ground at about 40 miles per hour on a jump, and then
there are the things he saw overseas that he doesn’t want to talk about; it was
just so special,” John said.

   Team Mitroka shot a
74 in the alternate shot format, but a solid 69 in best-ball for 143 to take
the top spot at Grosse Ile. Six teams, the top two from each of three sites,
earned spots in the Senior Mid-Am Finals scheduled for the North course at
Oakland Hills Country Club on Friday, Sept. 15.

  The complete field
included 264 golfers with 44 teams at each site, and each team consisted of one
senior golfer age 55-plus paired up with a mid-amateur player age 25-plus. The
teams played 18 holes of four-ball or best-ball in the morning and 18 holes of
foursomes, also known as alternate shot, in the afternoon.

  “It was just so
great to be playing golf again with my dad,” Josh said. “He’s always been a
teacher and coach (Wyandotte Roosevelt High School). He recently retired from
teaching, and my brother and I started playing golf with him when were like
five. Both of us played college golf at Wayne State.

  “Dad just fought
cancer, things like a 13-hour surgery, just really tough stuff. Playing golf,
competing with him, trying our best, it was just great. We tried to win. We
didn’t really expect it and we bogeyed the last two holes in alternate shot,
but you know I thought I’m alive, he’s alive, and we are playing golf. It was

  John said he lives day-to-day, and that Josh
is home and healing.

  “We were paired with
Doug Anderson and his son Ryan, and Doug and I were talking about being parents
and getting to do something we love and share it with our kids,” he said. “We
were competing like crazy, and who better to do it with than your kid. Whatever
happens happens. We’re the lucky ones.”

  John said he and his
son used their recent battles to help in the golf battle.

  “I told Josh that cancer couldn’t beat me, and
that he had to suck it up and pick his old man up,” he said. “He did it. We did
it. You know, out there we are nobody, but we could do the best we could and
have fun. We did that.”

   In addition to the Mitroka team heading to the
finals in September, the runner-up team at Grosse Ile was Joe Marx of Holland and
Casey Lubahn, the head men’s golf coach at Michigan State University. They shot
a 68 in the four-ball for a 146 total.

  Mike Raymond and
Adam White of Jackson were the top team at Oakland University’s Katke-Cousins
course. They had a four-ball 66 to power a winning 138 total. Mike Anderson of
Northville and Rick Herpich of Orchard Lake also punched their tickets to the
finals by finishing second at 141.

 Tom Gieselman of
Commerce Township and Scott Strickland of Birmingham teamed up for a sizzling
64 in four-ball to shoot 138 and win at Plum Hollow Country Club. Tom
Werkmeister of Grandville and Mike Kohn of Belding shot 141 for second and a
spot in the finals.

  Two hole-in-ones
were recorded at Plum Hollow during the tournament. Gieselman and Kevin
Kirkland of Northville each aced the par 3 No. 12 hole.

   “Now we get to look
forward to playing Oakland Hills (in the finals),” John said. “Shows what can
happen when you just believe and you battle.”

-Greg Johnson [email protected]