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Alexis Mihelich off to fast start as Saluki golf coach

September 21, 2011

By Megan Kramper
Saluki Media Services

It’s evident from the moment you talk to Saluki Women’s Golf Head Coach Alexis Mihelich, she’s passionate about golf.

The 29-year-old former head coach of Chicago State was hired in August after the retirement of longtime coach Diane Daugherty, but already in her short career, Mihelich has a mile-long list of accomplishments.

Not only was Mihelich a four-year letterwinner at the University of New Orleans, she’s also a Ladies Professional Golf Association certified professional, has had her swing portrayed in the “Golden Tee Live” video game, and has served as personal golf instructor to one of entertainment’s biggest names.

Mihelich quickly made her mark at SIU, as the Salukis finished second and first respectively, in their first two tournaments this fall. It was the first time the Salukis have won a non-home tournament since 2007.

She started playing golf in ninth grade.  All of her friends tried out for more popular sports like volleyball, basketball, and softball, but Mihelich was intrigued by golf.

“My parents said I couldn’t do it because it was too expensive, but I saved up money from my eighth grade graduation and went and bought some clubs for $200,” Mihelich said. “I had no idea what I was buying, but I knew I was going to do it.”

She became even more interested in the sport as she progressed through high school and sought out a professional for lessons.  Mihelich wanted a female teacher, but in the Chicagoland area, that was hard to find.

“At 17, when I couldn’t find any good female to teach me, that’s how I knew I wanted to become an LPGA pro so I could teach young girls someday,” she explained.

A year after graduated from UNO, Mihelich earned her LPGA certification and became a teaching professional at Green Garden Academy in Frankfort, Ill.

“I’m a big believer young girls need to be influenced by other females,” Mihelich said. “There were none around (when I was growing up), and it’s fulfilling now for me to see a girl learn how to play golf and take the values and sportsmanship of the game and help shape their life.”

Alexis Mihelich with her close friend Bernie Mac.

Mihelich will never forget the day she became the personal instructor for a rather high profile client.

“I remember getting home and having a message on my answering machine asking if I could give lessons to a man named Bernard McCollough,” she recalled. “I thought ‘Sure, okay, no problem.”

When famed comedian Bernie Mac showed up at Garden Green, Mihelich almost couldn’t believe her eyes. They hit it off so well that Mac eventually came to treat her like a part of his family. She was invited to numerous outings at Chicago White Sox games and trips on his personal yacht on Lake Michigan.

When Mac suddenly died in 2008, his wife Rhonda, asked Mihelich to say a few words at the funeral.  A framed collage of portraits of the two, including a framed program from the funeral service, adorns the walls in her office in Lingle Hall, and she still keeps in contact with his wife and daughter via Facebook and text messages.

“It was one of the greatest personal honors of my life,” Mihelich said of her opportunity to speak at the funeral.

Mihelich said that just because she worked with someone high profile like Mac doesn’t mean her other students hold any less special place in her life and career.

“I don’t look at them any less if it was a six-year-old coming to a lesson or a 80-year-old or celebrity,” she said. “I just try to help them because at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, teaching the game of golf.”

As Mihelich continues to influence young golfers, she’s always coming up with new goals and accomplishments for the Salukis.  She said each member of the team wanted to earn medalist honors this year, and while Margaret Gilley has already done that, Mihelich continues to push her athletes to become better each day.

She scours the SIU record books looking for the next score to beat and is striving for her team to perform at the best of its ability.

“They know what they have to do to get medalist honors and to be on top, but now it’s my job to make sure I prepare them properly so they can go out and perform,” Mihelich said.

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