PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – A harrowing journey that took four days to escape war-torn Ukraine came to an emotional end Friday evening when 15-year-old Mykhailo “Misha” Golod and his mother arrived in Orlando, Florida.
As chronicled last week in a Golf Digest story, Golod and his family had been sheltering in the basement of their Kyiv home as the Russian military approached the capital when golf instructor David Leadbetter reached out to the teenager via email with a plan to bring him to the U.S. and enroll him in the Leadbetter Academy.
“It was a scary journey,” Leadbetter said Saturday. “They had to go through military check points on the way to the border. The Russians are heading west now and [Golod] said if they’d waited a week or two they probably wouldn’t have gotten out.”
Golod fled west to Hungary with his mother and father and crossed over the Hungarian border on Thursday. From there Golod and his mother – his father wasn’t allowed to leave Ukraine because he’s considered fighting age – flew to London before the final leg of the trip to Florida.
Leadbetter said Golod was looking forward to getting to the range Saturday following weeks of uncertainty since the Russians invaded. According to Golod, the Russian military had taken over Golod’s home course and were using it as an encampment.
Golod, whose mother planned to fly back to Ukraine on Monday, will stay with one of Leadbetter’s assistants and will continue to take online classes while attending the Leadbetter Academy.
“Talking with him was amazing. He talked about someday going back to Ukraine and building an academy and working with the junior program,” Leadbetter said. “Most kids his age want to turn pro and win majors, it’s really impressive.”
A donation page has been established to help fund Golod’s travels, and Leadbetter hopes proceeds can help other Ukrainian juniors flee the war.