To put it simply, Mike Simmons is one for the ages.
With age comes wisdom. And Simmons is living proof of that concept on and off the golf course.
“Golf is not age,” he said. “You teach the oldest and the youngest. And the middle. Golf at any age can be great.”
However, in many instances, it takes a “special teacher” to help playing golf become great – and even more important, enjoyable. And in this case, that teacher would be Mike Simmons. And, at 88, he deserves to slow down a bit. In fact, he says he’s “retiring.”
The job of most teaching pros is to put floundering golfers on the right track of hitting correctly that all-too-small ball. In other words, getting better at the game. Maybe that is important. However, much more important is enjoying the game, and Mike Simmons knows that all too well.
However, and finally, Simmons has decided to take a step back.
“Golf teaches you patience, perseverance, honesty, respect. On the golf course, you need to handle yourself as a human being … a caring human being.”
He calls it “retiring” but – even though it might hurt his feelings – don’t believe him.
Yes, after many decades of giving lessons at Miccosukee and Melreese golf courses in Miami-Dade, the Barbados-born Simmons is moving to Clearwater in search of a slower pace. That seems completely reasonable.
However, will it completely happen? Not likely.
Simmons, despite his so-called retirement, is already talking about setting up golf lessons for veterans in the Clearwater area. At Melreese in recent years, he was instrumental in helping veterans discover the benefits of playing golf. Simmons recently said, “Once you have done something much of your life it is difficult to shove it to the wayside.” Just slowing it down a bit will do just fine for Simmons.
Helping the veterans is true to Simmons’ code of life.
The man cannot see somebody, whatever age, struggling with the game of golf – or in life. For him, seeing that is a call for him to step in with a helping hand – paid or not.
That is his outlook – being a helper, philanthropist and giver.
Just because you are so-called “retiring” does not mean you can discard those attributes.
The age of 88 has nothing to do with caring.
Here are two examples of Simmons’ teaching over the years, and what he teaches is much more than a proper grip and a correct swing. Many times, Simmons’ main teachings are about life:
First, there’s Tanya Eathakotti to reveal the real Simmons:
Tanya first met Simmons when she was about 6 years old.
“The first time I saw Mike was when my Dad went to the driving range to hit golf balls at Miccosukee Golf Course. I would tag along with my Dad, and that was fun.
“One day, I was hitting some balls also and it started pouring rain, but I hit a good shot,” Tanya recalled. “After that, I just couldn’t stop and just kept hitting in the rain.”
Simmons, nobody’s fool, knew determination when he saw it – even if that determination was coming from a bit-of-a-soggy 6-year-old.
The coach and the kid became instructor and student. There might have been an age difference, but not a philosophical difference.
“I remember that day in the rain when I met Mike, and it is like it was just 10 days ago,” Eathakotti said.
Eathakotti went on to become Miami-Dade County’s top high school golfer and one of the six top scholar-athletes in Miami-Dade.
These days, she is beginning her senior year at Cornell College while working in the state department.
“He’s more than a coach,” Eathakotti said of Simmons. “You mention his name and I’m going to get emotional. I will love him for the rest of my life.”
Well done, Mike.
Now we move on to the veterans to reveal the real Simmons:
Veterans are an emotional subject for Simmons. He has seen their struggles up close and personal.
As one veteran at Melreese, who wants to remain unnamed, put it: “He [Simmons] has seen what we’ve been through and he wants to help us get through what we have been through. That’s him. And that’s how he uses golf.”
These veterans are carrying more than a golf bag over their shoulders. They are carrying the burden of war and injuries along with that golf bag.
Mike Simmons, over recent years, is the one who has made sure that he can help them through the means he knows best – that would be golf. They get free playing time. They get free clubs. Hopefully, they get the ability to temporarily put aside some dreadful memories while on a beautiful course.
“Golf is not age. You teach the oldest and the youngest. And the middle. Golf at any age can be great.”
Simmons is working on both the “what they can do parts” and the “what they can’t do parts.”
“Golf is a medium to personally interact with people,” he said. “With people of all ages and experiences. These people have had tough experiences.”
Then he adds, “Golf teaches you patience, perseverance, honesty, respect. On the golf course, you need to handle yourself as a human being … a caring human being.”
Well, maybe not so.
About that retirement he relishes as he heads to his new home near Clearwater …
“You know what,” Simmons said. “I would really like to work with the veterans up there.”
C’mon, let’s call it semi-retirement.