April 10, 2012

Our Neighbors: Back home on the green at London Country Club

By Magen McCrarey
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — At 17, Mike Kissel Jr. stepped onto the green and teetered his body weight to find the right spot to plant his feet into a position on London Country Club’s green in order to win the Regional High School Golf Tournament, and he did.  

Fast forward for more than 25 years, and he found himself smack dab right back on the green planting his feet into the London community.

“It was real ironic … looking back on how it worked out I honestly believe the Lord brought me down here to get saved,” Kissel said, continuing, “and there will be no one ever who will convince me different.”

Kissel is a PGA professional and retired Marine, as well as the general manager of the London Country Club (LCC) and has been for 10 years.  

He grew up swinging a club with his PGA lifetime member father Mike Kissel Sr. on Eagle’s Nest Golf Course in Somerset and loved every bit of it, he said.

After graduating from Somerset High School he entered into the Marine Corps.  The Corps decided clubs were the only weapon Kissel should be wielding for them when they realized how good he was at golf.  He played on their professional team in North Carolina for four years.

The Marines’ experience and mentality eventually created somewhat of an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder within Kissel’s organization--a weakness some young LCC members like to prod fun at as they strategically shift gift shop items in disarray.  But as he grows older, he says the Marine Corps mentality starts to take more of a backseat to compassion.

“Most people in the community know my story here, I was lost and was in an addiction with alcohol.  I was blessed that I hit bottom and was able to reach out,” Kissel said.

He believes community members were strategically placed in his path to confront his hang-up of addiction, and local churches opened him up to taking charge of his faith, family and work.

“Things couldn’t have been any more opposite than what they were, it affected everything in my house.  I was always job driven and thought that’s what a man did--bring home a paycheck,” Kissel said, adding, “I couldn’t have been more wrong about the definition of a man.”

Kissel’s involvement at his local church,Hawk Creek, steers his day-to-day activities in men’s groups, including the men who walk onto the green of LCC.

“I have an opportunity to get to know more families than anything, not just individuals,” he said.

“I’ve cried with them--things happen in their life, there’s loss in their life, and they become like family.”

Kissel doesn’t get to play golf as much as he used to but on occasion, he won’t leave the LCC gates for three weeks.  Everything he needs sits right there upon 145 acres with 250 members and a landscape that’s continuously evolving into something that’s a cut above the rest.

“I never dawned the door of a church, it just was not a part of my childhood…but certain people are placed within your path,” he said.

“It’s been wonderful.”