His love of the links combined with the loss of his father has inspired Cadiz native Mike Wright to tour around Kentucky to play every golf course in the commonwealth in order to raise money for cancer research.
Wright played Madisonville Country Club March 10 — his first course in Hopkins County. Before playing there, the closest the tour came to Madisonville was the Pennyrile State Forest Golf Course in Christian County.
“The course has a great layout, the clubhouse and the staff were great,” Wright said. “The wind made it difficult out there. We probably had the highest score we shot so far there. But overall the course was great. I really liked that island green on the front nine where you have to walk across that wooden bridge.”
Wright is a former high school teacher and basketball coach. On March 10, he was joined by former University Heights girls basketball coach and Trigg County AD Taylor Sparks, former Crittenden football coach Al Starnes and his wife, Angela (Payne) Starnes — who’s in the KHSAA Hall of Fame and still holds the fastest time in the girls 100-meter dash set during the 1980 KHSAA 1A State Meet while she ran track for Todd County Central.
“We played a two-on-two scramble,” Wright said. “It was tied up going into the par-three 17th hole. I hit my tee shot onto the green, and I made a 30-foot putt for birdie. That won the match since we both parred 18.”
The idea of playing every golf course in Kentucky came to Wright after his father, Gene Wright, passed away on April 7, 2007 after a five-year battle with cancer.
“I wanted to combine my two biggest passions,” Wright said. “Golf and fighting against cancer.”
Wright often plays with cancer survivors in his foursomes.
“Al and Angela are both cancer survivors,” Wright said. “I’ve also had skin cancer myself so I know the burden that cancer brings from both sides.”
Wright said that Angela Starnes was the second female to play on the tour. The first was Marshall County 7th-grader Trinity Beth — who was named Miss Kentucky Golfer of the Year for 2020. Wright will also invite local golf pros or sports icons to hit the links with him on his tour.
After they put the flagstick back in on 18, Wright and the rest of his group usually eat at a local restaurant, but due to COVID-19 concerns, they decided to skip the post round meal March 10.
“Al hasn’t gotten his second shot yet,” Wright said. “He actually had COVID and it put him in the hospital so I don’t blame him for not wanting to eat out. We’ll definitely find a good local place to eat at when we come back to play Lakeshore Country Club and the City Park course.”
Currently, Wright has played 46 out of the 241 courses in Kentucky. He’s also raised just about $6,000 for cancer research.
“We match the cost of setting a tee time, greens fee and cart rental to Relay for Life,” Wright said. “I’ll call the course in advance and sometimes they let us play for no charge, but we still donate what we would’ve paid the course.”
More information on Wright’s mission to play every course in Kentucky is available on his website, golfingkentuckyforacure.com.