Mikhail Golod: Golf community rallies to help Ukrainian teenage golfer escape to US

But his arrival in the US, while providing him with security, came at a cost.

His mother will soon return to Ukraine to be with his father, who had to stay due to martial law, as well as with his grandparents. Although Hunger thinks that his grandparents and mother will go to the US, he is not sure when he will next see his father Oleg.

While he values ​​his safety, the return of most of his family to Ukraine in the midst of a Russian invasion of the country has had a profound effect on him.

“It’s very disruptive, but luckily they all have Wi-Fi and an internet source, food, water, and I can still talk to them and make sure they’re safe,” he told CNN’s Jim Sciutto . “And I know that when it’s all over, I will definitely bring them here to be with me.”

Hunger added: “My father will be able to leave only after martial law ends. Otherwise, he will have to stay there and we will hope for the best.”


After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Golod and his family did what many other Ukrainians did: they took refuge in Kyiv in the hope that everything would end soon.

Hunger told CNN that he spent a week and a half in a Russian “bombardment” of the Ukrainian capital because “the explosions weren’t that close to our house.”

“But… the moment we found out that the bombing was in our city, we realized that we had to leave and get me out, and then my parents would come back to rescue their parents,” he explained.

And it was Hunger’s connection with golf that opened the way for him to the USA.

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The 15-year-old is one of the best young golfers in Ukraine and has competed all over the world.

Just last year, Hunger became the first Ukrainian to compete in the United States Golf Association (USGA) Junior Championships, which took place last summer at a country club in North Carolina.

After a grueling journey of 5,000 miles that began in the car and ended when he landed in Orlando, which took approximately 54 hours, it was the visa he received after participating in the US tournament that helped him return to the country.

And safely in the US Famine condemned what is happening back in his homeland.

“What is happening in Ukraine should not be happening in the center of Europe in the 21st century,” he said. “Children are losing their homes, they are dying, they are losing their lives.

“And it’s devastating and people need to know the truth because there’s a lot of fake news around. But in fact, the entire country is being destroyed. and this must be stopped.”

Worldwide recognition

While he was still in Kyiv, Hunger’s plight became widely circulated on the Internet after an interview with Golf Digest highlighted his and his family’s plight.

The interview led members of the golf community to become eager to help him with his situation.

Jim Nugent, board member of the American Junior Golf Association, and golf instructor David Leadbetter began the process of helping.

Nugent told CNN Sport that reading the Hunger story “stirred my soul a little,” so he and Ledbetter offered to help.

“So I called (Leadbetter) and we talked about it and he said, ‘Well, we have to do something about it.’ And I said, “What do you mean?” He said: “We will get him out of Ukraine. We’ll enroll him in my academy in Orlando, Florida and I’ll get him into school and he’ll start a new life,” Nugent explained. at first he thought the plan was “a little far-fetched”.

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So, they started doing everything they could to help Famine and his family on their journey.

Nugent explains that he spent time on the phone to get financial commitments from the USGA and the North Carolina Country Club to help him travel from Ukraine.

He also started fundraising page so that people can donate to the cause of the Famine. At the time of writing, the article has raised nearly $35,000.

Seeing this outpouring of support “means a lot” for Hunger, Nugent says.

“I don’t know if it’s fair to say we saved a life, but it certainly changed his lifeline forever,” Nugent explained to CNN Sport.

“For me, this is just a confirmation of something that I consider absolute. And it is in difficult times, this game, this community of golfers, as you just mentioned, is always energized; so it always has been and always will be. And it’s just in my mind a confirmation of that absolute fact.”

Hunger poses with Harold Varner III in TPC Sawgrass during the Players Championship.

Arriving in the USA, Hunger spent the first days acclimatizing, putting in order the phone, bank account and other things necessary for life in a foreign country.

His mother, Vita, helped her son settle in before returning to her husband a few days later.

Ledbetter and his golf academy provided housing for Hunger, while the young golfer stayed with his assistant as he continued to adjust to life in the US.

Although he is unsure about his long-term future in the US, Hunger says he will attend college in the country after completing his final years of high school there.

And Nugent believes Hunger’s golf club skills will help him and his future in the US.

“Leadbetter has seen him swing and says this guy has real potential,” he explained. “And so I think the goal will be to try and use his ability to hopefully go to college in America and play golf. or more modest.

“But he seems to have enough skills to earn some financial aid, a financial scholarship for an American college. And so I think that will be the goal.”


Hunger’s life turned upside down with his move around the world.

But attempts are being made to make his stay in the US as pleasant as possible given the situation.

After the PGA Tour learned about the history of the Famine, they arranged for the young golfer to travel to the Players Championship, one of its main events, on the last game day on Monday, March 14th.

During his time at the event, Hunger met some of the biggest players in the sport, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, and even managed to walk some of the bands inside the ropes, giving him an unobstructed view of the highest level of golf.

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Hunger called it “the best day of my life”.

Hunger poses with Rory McIroy during the Players Championship.

But that is not all. Nugent explained that Hunger had been lent a set of golf clubs—because, according to Nugent, “it still hasn’t been delivered”—and that he actually played at the famous TPC Sawgrass course.

Surviving what he has is unimaginable to most, and as long as he is safe, his family is always on his mind.

“I am very grateful to everyone who made it possible for me to be here, and it is great that I can continue to pursue my goals in studies and sports. But at the same time, it is very, very unnerving for my whole family to return to Ukraine. “

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