Krak Still Finds Beauty in the Game of Golf

If Mike Krak ever wants to get to know the true character of a person, he's learned the best way to do it is to just take them out to the golf course.

The 86-year old former West Virginia golfer who will be inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame has spent the majority of his life on the golf course, and its the beauty and challenge of the game that has kept him wanting to come back again and again.

"You can't cheat it," he said. "You can't blame the manager or the coach or any teammates, it's just you out there by yourself competing against the golf course. It teaches you to be honest and disciplined. Most importantly, it teaches integrity."

During his time with the West Virginia golf team from 1944-48, Krak emerged as one of the best players in school history. He was the No. 1 golfer on a Mountaineer team that finished 12-0 in 1947 and earned a the program's only trip to the postseason.

Over the years, Krak made a name for himself with WVU golf. But it almost didn't happen.

The Weirton, W.Va., native had originally planned to attend The Ohio State University to play golf, but fate brought him to Morgantown when he found out they could not give him a scholarship that would cover him to fund his out-of-state tuition. He then decided to try out for the Mountaineer basketball team with the hopes of earning a scholarship.

Three months later, he met and talked to Dr. Richard Aspinall - the West Virginia golf coach at the time - and the rest was history.

"Running into Dr. Aspinall ended up becoming the biggest blessing in the world," Krak said. "I never expected to have a golf career, before I got to WVU or after I played well here."

Krak met former Masters champion Henry Picard at the Canterbury Golf Course in Cleveland once his playing days at WVU were over. After having lunch with Picard, the assistant golf professional made the decision that it was time to give joining the PGA Tour a shot.

He joined the tour in 1954, playing as a tour regular until 1956. During his time as a professional, Krak played in 15 majors and while on the PGA Tour he had 20 top-25 finishes and one top 10.

As he watches golf now, it amazes him to see how much the game has changed since he played on the tour.

"The teaching these guys get has gotten so sophisticated now with all the technology we have now," Krak said. "The players on the tour, even the ones on the Tour are better than we all were. The guys on the regular tour, they're so good, they look like a bunch of robots."

It's been a while since Krak has been able to get out on the golf course. He's currently living in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and has been retired for 20 years, but recent heart issues have forced him to go almost a year without working on his game.

For the first time since he's learned to play the game he grew to love, Krak isn't allowed to play.

And, in a way, the hope that he will soon be able to play again has made him remember how great and beautiful the game of golf is.

"It's been really tough to deal with. This sport has been my life for so long. I didn't have much else to go to, I don't have many hobbies," Krak said. "It's nice living here because everyone plays here. And that's the nice thing about this game. You can go to school and play football or baseball or whatever, and you can go to the NFL or play in the majors for a few years and then you're done.

"Golf is something you can play for the rest of your life. That's the beauty of this game. Here I am, at 86, still trying to do whatever I can to get out there and play again."

Krak graduated from WVU in 1948 with a degree in physical education. He and his wife, Susan, have three grown children, Jennifer, David and Greg, and eight grandchildren. He expects the whole family to be at his side in Morgantown this fall when he is inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.

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