by Joel Muhs / Sports Editor
A national title for the Hutchinson Community College golf team last season left a sweet taste to end the season, but the start of this season turned that taste bitter after golf enthusiast and assistant HutchCC golf coach Mike Kinney died on Sept. 1.
Kinney, a Hutchinson native, and Hutchinson High School and University of Kansas graduate, served as assistant coach during the Blue Dragons’ run to a national championship to end last season, where HutchCC took home both the team and individual titles.
“Mike had a great heart and always put us players first,” sophomore and 2021 NJCAA individual golf champion Ben Partridge said. “A few times, he would stay up late with us in the hotel, and we would go into the hallway and practice our putting already for the event the next morning. He could easily just go to bed, but he wanted us to be fully prepared.”
The golf course wasn’t the only place Kinney was known and respected. Kinney also served as a member of the Hutchinson Golf Council and Trinity United Methodist Church, but he was a friend to many.
“Mike was just Mike, you know?” HutchCC golf coach Chris Young said. “Mike was loved by everybody, he was everybody’s friend, and never said a bad word about anything or anyone.”
However, it was Kinney’s selflessness and willingness to help others and be there for those that needed his presence most that is remembered by those that were closest to him.
“He was one of those guys that if you needed him he was there,” Young said. “He would do anything for anybody. He was involved in our church that I belong to, real strong. He’s a family guy and he basically overtime showed our team that he was there for us and he was part of our family. You can’t say a bad word about him.”
Kinney proved to be a friend to the HutchCC golfers as well as a coach, and his vibrant personality helped ease the mood on trips to Blue Dragon golf tournaments.
“Mike was a kind and funny guy. He felt like one of the guys off the course and really lightened the mood in the van to and from events,” Partridge said.
Young, a longtime friend of Kinney’s, noted how big of an impact Kinney had on both himself and on the HutchCC golf team.
“For me, he lightened my load as a coach and for the kids he was a sounding board. He was a helper of the golf swing and just there for them whenever they needed him as well,” Young said.
After Kinney helped the Blue Dragons cap off a national title, the Blue Dragons will have to navigate the new season without their former assistant coach, but Kinney remains in both the minds and hearts of the HutchCC golfers.
“So far we’re just going by our business as best as we can, but obviously it’s not the same,” Partridge said. “We’re going to go out and play for him.”
From the golf course and well beyond, Kinney left a lasting impact in his community, friends and family. Although there were many to choose from, Young narrowed down one of his favorite memories of Kinney that spoke to the type of person he was.
“Mike was always kind of a jokester and there’s a lot of funny memories we’ll all have of him. I couldn’t really just pick one funny or one great memory that we have,” Young said. “I guess maybe when we won the national tournament last (season) Mike was there celebrating with us and throwing water around and getting the trophy. I’ll always remember him being a part of that and how special he was to me, not only being involved in this, but how special he was of a friend to me and how he made me see some things maybe differently than I had before and helped me become a better person.”