Monday, October 18, 2010

Michigan's golf season winds to an end

I've got my last round of golf scheduled, do you?

I'm planning to play this week not for fun but for work. I've had a few review products show up at my door that need to be tested before the weather turns sour.

I just got a facebook message that Manitou Passage is closed for the season. Most courses up north can't be far behind.

Now's the time to reflect on what's been a great season. Both the spring and fall weather was good enough to extend the season a couple weeks on either end, a pleasant surprise for courses that have been starved for revenue a couple years in a row. Boyne USA Resorts reported last week that this has been the longest golf season in its history. Several Boyne courses are scheduled to stay open until the end of the month.

Looking back, the summer weather was stunning. I read somewhere it was the fifth-warmest summer on record in metro Detroit. Most of the weekends were rain free. The weather stayed consistantly wonderful ... 80 to 85 and sunny from June to September.

There were some cool first-time events that I'll never forget, too. The grand opening of the Golf Club at Harbor Shores was as good as any event we've had in Michigan (Just as good as the 2008 PGA Championship and 2004 Ryder Cup if you ask me). Watching Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer was a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.

Meeting Butch Harmon at the Loon Golf Resort in Gaylord for the opening of his golf school there was another treat. There's a chance he and Natalie Gulbis could return to the resort next summer, so stay tuned.

I even got the chance to play The Bear in its 25th anniversary. The legendary Jack Nicklaus design that spearheaded the growth of northern Michigan as a golf destination is as good as ever.

Speaking of bears, this blog will go into a bit of a hibernation mode as winter settles in.

But if big news breaks -- like if the PGA Tour decides to come back to Michigan in 2011 -- I'll post an update.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Free golf October 11-17 in the Gaylord Golf Mecca

A great forecast is in order for the Gaylord Golf Mecca's Golf Customer Appreciaton Week, set for October 11-17. Just book a stay at one of the area's many condos or hotels to get a voucher for a free round of golf at any of the local mecca courses. There is a $15 cart fee if you aren't up to walking.

Participating are The Natural, Wilderness Valley and Black Forest, Black Bear in nearby Vanderbilt, Black Lake in Onaway, Marsh Ridge, Michaywe Pines, the Classic course at Otsego Club, Treetops Resort and The Loon Golf Resort. The places to stay are listed below (most prices are for double occupancy):

Lodging Facilities Facility Rate Contact Number
* America's Best Value Inn $45 per person 989-732-5133
* Alpine Lodge $45 per person 800-684-2233
* Baymont Inn & Suites $54 per person 888-808-6331
* Pine-Cone Accommodations $69 per person 866-731-1887
* Marsh Ridge Resort $60 per person includes breakfast 800-743-7529
* Waters Inn $39 per person 800-557-2425
* Great Northern Rentals $69 per person 877-546-2028
* Heart Lake Waterfront Cottages $35 per person 888-595-5081
* Holiday Inn Express $59 per person includes breakfast and a sleeve of golf balls 989-732-2200

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chill with LPGA star Natalie Gulbis at The Loon Golf Resort

There's still time to chill with Natalie Gulbis at the Loon Golf Resort this weekend.

The Loon Golf Resort, which hosted the very successful Natalie Gulbis Charity Classic August 13-15, welcomes back the LPGA beauty September 24-26 for the Natalie Gulbis Showcase event.

"We have had a great summer of golf events with Butch Harmon and Natalie Gulbis both putting on great showcase events here at the Loon for our golfing guests," said Matt Preuss, General Manager at The Loon Golf Resort. "We are very excited to have Natalie return in September and look forward to having her participate and help create what will be the most exciting final golf event to play in for the season."

This event will include golf, clinics and great food with Gulbis. The two-day 36-hole event will be played in a four-person team format with amateurs competing in both gross and net divisions. Gulbis will be on hand participating with private clinics for the contestants, including a junior clinic for kids, as well as participating on golf holes, and interacting with each group.

The cost to participate is $2,000 per four-person team. This includes practice rounds on Friday, tournament rounds, clinics with Natalie Gulbis, cocktails, meals, as well as awards and prizes. In addition, the first 20 teams to register will receive lodging at the Loon Golf Resort.

I had a great time at the Butch Harmon event. I'm guessing that Gulbis will be just as fun to hang out with.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Crystal Mountain Resort to shine on The Golf Channel

It's not often Michigan golf resorts get exposure on national TV.

The last time it happened was several years ago, when the Golf Channel series, the Big Break, visited Boyne USA Resorts.

And old-timers might remember the glory days of Michigan golf when ESPN showcased the Treetops Resort in Gaylord with a two-day telecast of the Par-3 Shootout.

This time around, it's Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa's turn during an episode of "Destination Golf" by the Golf Channel. The show's lucky host, Lauren Thompson, travels the country visiting golf hot spots. I'm not a big fan of the show, but Thompson is easy on the eyes, and I'll certainly check it out to see how Crystal Mountain is portrayed.

During the episode, Thompson hangs with Crystal's Director of Golf Brad Dean, who is not only one of Michigan's top teachers but one of the nicest guys in the industry. The episode will also tour the resort's Mountain Ridge course and the cool Alpine slide.

I missed the original airing last night, but the replays are scheduled to be Sunday, September 12th @ 1 p.m.; Wednesday, September 15 @ 1 p.m.
Saturday, September 25 @ 10 p.m.; Sunday, October 3 @ 11:30 a.m.; and Monday, October 18th @ 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Check it out.

CHARITY OUTING: For the second year in a row, the Meade Lexus of Lakeside will be sponsoring the St. John Medical Staff/Guild Golf Outing, set for Sept. 13th at the Lochmoor Club in Grosse Pointe Woods. Proceeds from the event go toward St. John Hospital and Medical Center Rehabilitative Services. Last year, approximately $25,000 was raised for this civic charity.

This year’s event includes a morning and afternoon four-person scramble, food and refreshments, door prizes, a raffle and numerous contest holes. Hole-in-one hopefuls, for instance, will have items such as 12-month lease on a Lexus GX 460 to keep them motivated. To add to the excitement, one of the live auction items will send the highest bidder and a friend to partake in the 2010 Lexus Champions for Charity National Championship at Pebble Beach in California. Golfers who fall short of sinking a hole-in-one or winning the Pebble Beach package can instead get a complimentary Odyssey White Putter to practice their hole-in-ones for next year. Lexus will be giving away the putters upon completion of a test drive.

You can purchase tickets online for the 8 a.m. shotgun here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bernie Smilovitz' charity outing moved to September to raise awareness for Hunger Action Month

Just because it's past Labor Day and school has started doesn't mean it's time to put away the clubs just yet.

There's plenty of great golf to be had this fall.

On Monday, September 13, 2010 Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan (Gleaners) will host the Bernie Smilovitz Harvest Classic. For the 7th consecutive year golfers will hit the links at Tam O’Shanter Country Club in West Bloomfield to help feed hungry neighbors across southeast Michigan. Registration and breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m., with a shotgun start at 10 a.m.

Golfers will receive a continental breakfast, 18 holes including cart, lunch, snacks and beverages on the course. Tam O’ Shanters’ back porch will host Bernie’s After Golf Party, offering hors d’ oeuvres and an open bar for players, friends and food bank supporters to celebrate a great day of golf and charity. For a $100 donation, non-golfers can be part of Bernie’s celebrity–filled After Golf Party. These funds will be used to help Gleaners feed children and their families.

Bernie Smilovitz, WDIV-Local 4’s sports anchor, has one again called on his friends from the world of sports, entertainment and politics to join him on the links for an event that has provided over 1,650,000 meals to our hungry neighbors in southeastern Michigan. This year the event hopes to raise 300,000 more meals!

“With Bernie’s heartfelt endorsement, we have renamed and rescheduled the ‘Bernie Smilovitz Harvest Classic’ to bring attention to Hunger Action Month and the important opportunity it provides for the public to join a movement that has a real and lasting impact on our effort to feed more hungry neighbors than ever before” said Gleaners President DeWayne Wells.

Registration is available online at

PROS PLAYING WELL: Two Michigan natives are having banner years professionally. Ann Arbor native Jennifer Song, who turned pro earlier this summer after a successful career at USC, was named rookie of the year on the Duramed Futures Tour. She finished second on the money list, earning nearly $64,000, to earn her LPGA card for next season.

“This is a great honor,” said Song, 20. “I feel very blessed that I can play the game I love.”

She finished the season with six top-10 finishes in nine events, including two victories and two runner-up finishes. She won her professional debut at the Tate & Lyle Players Championship in Decatur, Ill.

I chronicled the journey of Tom Gillis of Lake Orion from the European Tour to the PGA Tour back when he first qualified in 2002. He's bounced back and forth between the big show and the Nationwide Tour the past four years, but he appears ready to stick around awhile. He finished in a tie for fifth at the Deutsche Bank Championship to advance to the third round of the FedEX Cup playoffs. He's earned more than $1 million this year. Go Tom!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Give back to Patriot Golf Day by playing golf over the holiday weekend at participating Michigan courses

Michigan has already played a huge role in Patriot Golf Day.

The Folds of Honor Foundation was founded in May 2007 by Major Dan Rooney, an F-16 Fighter Pilot and PGA Professional who owns Grand Haven Golf Club. A decorated military pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, Major Rooney has served three combat tours in Iraq.

It was after his second tour, while a passenger on a commercial flight, that Major Rooney witnessed an event that would profoundly change his life. As the plane landed in Grand Rapids, the pilot announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have an American hero on board – Corporal Brock Bucklin. And his twin brother, Corporal Brad Bucklin, is accompanying him home from Iraq. As a sign of respect, please remain seated while Corporal Bucklin's family receives him in his final homecoming." Major Rooney watched through the window of the plane as the flag-draped casket was lowered. He saw a family waiting for Brock, and a little four-year old boy waiting for his father. This tragic homecoming inspired Major Rooney to create the Folds of Honor Foundation.

The fourth Patriot Golf Day®, over Labor Day Weekend (Sept. 3-6), will collect donations and raise awareness for the Folds of Honor Foundation. Patriot Golf Day, is the primary fundraiser for Folds of Honor which awards post-secondary educational scholarships for children and spouses of military service men and women killed or disabled while serving our great nation.

Through events across the country since 2007, PGA Professionals have helped raise more than $5.3 million, allowing Folds of Honor to award 1,163 post-secondary educational scholarships.

Golfers are asked to donate at least $1 for each round of golf. Participating private facilities will accept donations. Non-golfers can also participate by making a donation to the foundation at its website at As a proud supporter and Official Card of Patriot Golf Day, American Express will match donations made using an American Express® Card during Patriot Golf Day Weekend.

While registration is still in progress, there are currently more than 3,500 facilities registered to host Patriot Golf Day events nationwide, with roughly 120 of those in Michigan.

Here's a comprehensive list of participating Michigan courses compiled on Aug. 31. This list may not reflect a complete list of participating facilities. Many opted out to be promoted on, so contact your local facility to see if they are taking part in Patriot Golf Day.

Quail Ridge Golf Club Ada MI 49301
Pine River Country Club Alma MI 48801
Gull Lake View Golf Club Augusta MI 49012
Hawk Hollow Bath MI 48808
Cedar Farms Golf Club Battle Creek MI 49015
Battle Creek Country Club Battle Creek MI 49015
Cedar Creek Golf Course Battle Creek MI 49015
Hawk's Eye Golf Resort Bellaire MI 49615
Boulder Creek GC Belmont MI 49306
Blythefield Country Club Belmont MI 49306
Point O'Woods Country Club Benton Harbor MI 49022
Katke GC/FSU Big Rapids MI 49307
Falcon Head Golf Club Big Rapids MI 49307
Bloomfield Hills Country Club Bloomfield Hills MI 48304
Lost Dunes Golf Club Bridgman MI 49106
Brookwood Golf Course Buchanan MI 49107
Orchard Hills Country Club Buchanan MI 49107
IMA Brookwood Golf Course Burton MI 48509
Fellows Creek Golf Course Canton MI 48188
Pheasant Run Golf Club Canton MI 48188
Charlotte Country Club Charlotte MI 48813
Reddeman Farms Golf Course Chelsea MI 48118
The Golf Connection Clarkston MI 48346
Golf Club of Coldwater Coldwater MI 49036
Corunna Hills Golf Course Corunna MI 48817
Springfield Oaks Golf Course Davisburg MI 48350
Copper Ridge Golf Club Davison MI 48423
Rogell Golf Course Detroit MI 48219
Rouge Park Golf Course Detroit MI 48228
Chandler Golf Club Detroit MI 48213
Eagle Eye Golf Club East Lansing MI 48823
Escanaba Country Club Escanaba MI 49829
Glen Oaks Golf & Country Club Farmington Hills MI 48334
Tyrone Hills Golf Club Fenton MI 48430
The Coyote Preserve Fenton MI 48430
Apple Mountain Golf Club Freeland MI 48623
Wilderness Valley Golf Club Gaylord MI 49735
Otsego Club Gaylord MI 49734
Gaylord Country Club Gaylord MI 49734
Genesee Hills Golf Course Grand Blanc MI 48439
The Jewel of Grand Blanc Grand Blanc MI 48439
Grand Haven Golf Club Grand Haven MI 49417
Thousand Oaks Golf Club Grand Rapids MI 49525
The Mines Grand Rapids MI 49534
Watermark Country Club Grand Rapids MI 49546
Cascade Hills Country Club Grand Rapids MI 49546
Stonewater Country Club Grand Rapids MI 49518
Sunnybrook Country Club Grandville MI 49418
Fox Run Ctry Club Grayling MI 49738
Wicker Hills Golf Club Hale MI 48739
Diamond Springs Golf Course Hamilton MI 49419
Birchwood Farms Golf & CC Harbor Springs MI 49740
Hillsdale Golf & Country Club Hillsdale MI 49242
Faulkwood Shores Golf & C Club Howell MI 48843
Rackham Golf Course Huntington Woods MI 48070
Kalamazoo Country Club Kalamazoo MI 49008
Grand Prairie Golf Course Kalamazoo MI 49006
Chisholm Hills Country Club Lansing MI 48911
Garland Resort Lewiston MI 49756
Lost Lake Woods Club Lincoln MI 48742
Spring Meadows Country Club Linden MI 48451
Whispering Willows Golf Course Livonia MI 48152
Idyl Wyld Golf Club Livonia MI 48154
Fox Creek Golf Club Livonia MI 48152
Red Oaks Golf Course Madison Heights MI 48071
Deer Run @ Lakes of the North Mancelona MI 49659
Manistee Golf & Country Club Manistee MI 49660
Emerald Vale GC Manton MI 49663
El Dorado Golf Course Mason MI 48854
Branson Bay Golf Course Mason MI 48854
Golden Sands Golf Course Mears MI 49436
Menominee River Golf Club Menominee MI 49858
Sandy Ridge Golf Course Midland MI 48642
Currie Municipal Golf Course Midland MI 48640
Northwood University Midland MI 48640
Monroe Golf & Country Club Monroe MI 48162
Lincoln Golf Club Muskegon MI 49445
Whittaker Woods Golf Club New Buffalo MI 49117
Black Lake Golf Club Onaway MI 49765
Lakewood Shores Resort Oscoda MI 48750
Scenic Golf and Country Club Pigeon MI 48755
Timber Trace Golf Club Pinckney MI 48169
The Inn at St. John's Plymouth MI 48170
Hilltop Golf Club Plymouth MI 48170
Brae Burn Golf Club Plymouth MI 48170
Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Ctr Plymouth MI 48170
Bird Creek Golf Club Port Austin MI 48467
Gull Lake Country Club Richland MI 49083
Brookwood Golf Club Rochester Hills MI 48309
Forest Dunes Golf Club Roscommon MI 48653
St Clair River Country Club Saint Clair MI 48079
Berrien Hills Golf Club Saint Joseph MI 49085
Selfridge ANG Golf Course Selfridge MI 48045
Stoney Creek Golf Course Shelby Township MI 48316
Hidden Valley Golf Club Shelbyville MI 49344
HawksHead Links South Haven MI 49090
St. Ives Golf Club Stanwood MI 49346
Plum Brook Golf Club Sterling Heights MI 48312
Klinger Lake Country Club Sturgis MI 49091
Tecumseh Country Club Tecumseh MI 49286
Bay Meadows Golf Course Traverse City MI 49684
Treetops Resort-North Course Treetops Village MI 49735
Sanctuary Lake Golf Academy Troy MI 48085
Stonegate Golf Club Twin Lake MI 49457
Black Bear Golf Club Vanderbilt MI 49795
The Orchards Golf Club Washington MI 48094
Yankee Springs Golf Course Wayland MI 49348
Woodlands of Van Buren Wayne MI 48184
Twin Beach Country Club West Bloomfield MI 48323
Wuskowhan Players Club West Olive MI 49460
White Lake Oaks Golf Course White Lake MI 48386
White Lake Golf Club Whitehall MI 49461
Lyon Oaks Golf Club Wixom MI 48393

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Take advantage of free golf day around metro Detroit Aug. 31

Free golf?

Sounds like a great way to end the summer.

At least a dozen of Southeastern Michigan’s finest golf clubs have signed on to participate in this year’s Free Day at the Links on Aug. 31, a “thank you” gesture by radio and television golf show host Jeff Lesson to the golfing community who have supported his Lesson On Golf program for many years.

The second annual free day will benefit the First Tee of Detroit program and the presenting sponsor is Ameriprise Financial Services Inc.

"Our first year was such a tremendous success, given the free golf, quality of courses and The First Tee as the beneficiary, it was a no brainer to do it again" said Lesson, a golfing enthusiast who founded the Lesson on Golf program and writes a newspaper column. "The First Tee does so much for these kids we are just thrilled to be a part of this."

Golfers must call the participating course of their choice to register for a tee time. Those who prefer to walk the course will do so free of charge. Cart riders will pay a minimum donation of $20 that will go to the First Tee program. Lisa Woodcox, executive director of The First Tee of Detroit commended Lesson for coming up with an idea that gives so much back to the community.

"We are so appreciative of Jeff Lesson for creating this day that benefits local golfers, golf courses, and youth participants in the First Tee of Detroit," Woodcox said. "It's wonderful to see the Metro Detroit's golf community support a program that has so positively impacted the lives of thousands of children over the past 12 years through our life and skills programs."

The courses committed so far to offer a free day include:
Tanglewood, South Lyon. 248-486-3355
Moose Ridge, South Lyon. 248-446-9030
The Majestic at Lake Walden, Hartland. 800-762-3280
Lyon Oaks, Wixom. 248-437-1488
The Westwynd, Oakland Township. 248-608-7820
Whispering Pines, Pinckney. 734-878-0009
Springfield Oaks, Davisburg. 248-625-2540
Fox Creek, Livonia. 248-771-3400
Whispering Willows, Livonia. 248-476-4493
Idyl Wyld , Livonia. 734-464-6325
Strategic Fox, Fox Hills. Plymouth 734-453-7272

There are plenty of other deals around the state to keep in mind the rest of the season.

* Treetops Resort in Gaylord hosts "Philanthropic Tuesdays" every week after 1 p.m. for the remainder of the season: any 9-Hole Round costs $25.00 per person with $5 donated to the charity, church or school of your choice. Enter the promo code 'CHARITY9' when booking. Any 18-Hole Round costs $45.00 per person with $10 donated to charity. Enter the promo code 'CHARITY18' when booking. Golfers will need to provide Treetops with the name and address of the charity that they wish to donate to at the time of check-in at the Pro Shop.
On Patriot Golf Day Wednesdays, the same rules apply to raise money for Patroit Day, founded to help those families who have lost loved ones in battle. Tee times after
1 p.m. cost $25 for nine holes (with $5 donated) and $45 for 18 (with $10 donated). Enter the codes PATRIOT9 and PATRIOT18 when booking. Visit for more.

* There is still time to sign up for the Golf Association of Michigan Golf Days for the chance to play these private clubs: At Polo Fields Country Club in Ann Arbor on Aug. 30 and on Sept. 13; Spring Meadows on Sept. 20 and the Country Club of Jackson on Sept. 24. Your $60 Golf Day entry fee includes 18 holes of golf, cart, range balls and prizes. To register, visit

* Public players get the chance to play the private TPC of Michigan with the Nature Valley qualifier Sept. 13 at the prestigious Dearborn course. The 2010 Nature Valley Amateur, a June-September series, includes qualifying events in 18 coast-to-coast markets, from Washington state to Florida. Four players from each qualifying event will advance to the two-day Championship on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Nov. 5–6, 2010, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. “We’re inviting America’s best amateurs to play like a PGA TOUR pro on award-winning courses designed specifically for this elevated type of competition,” said Travis Trembath, Nature Valley marketing. “Nature Valley, for a fourth summer, is excited to bring an authentic, adrenaline-packed sporting experience to hundreds of golf enthusiasts.”
Men and women with an established USGA handicap index between 0 and 24 are eligible. Each qualifying event will play host to four flights, with each flight winner earning the chance to compete in the championship weekend. Visit for more.

Jackson's Ron Beurmann wins dramatic Michigan PGA Championship

EAST LANSING - The island green at the Eagle Eye Golf Club claimed another victim and yet again had a hand in the Michigan PGA Professional Championship.

Ron Beurmann of Jackson came from four strokes behind with two holes to play to win the 89th Michigan PGA Professional Championship in a playoff Aug. 25. The 50-year old Director of Golf at The Country Club of Jackson was two strokes behind entering the final round and won the tournament on the second hole of a three-man playoff.

“It’s a miracle, it’s a miracle,” he said. “The key for me winning this week is the fact I only missed two five-foot putts.”

John Seltzer of Ann Arbor held a two-stroke lead entering the final round and looked in control until his one-stroke lead vanished with a wet tee shot on the 142-yard 17th hole, which mimics the island green at the TPC of Sawgrass.

Sean Winters of Bloomfield Hills Country Club started the final round five shots behind Seltzer but got hot in the middle of the round with an eagle on 14 and a birdie on 15 before driving his tee shot into the water on the par five 18th hole. He ended with a double bogey. On the final hole, Seltzer’s layup shot found the edge of a railroad tie, leading to a double bogey. Beurmann birdied the hole as all three players finshed regulation at 10-under par.

Winters was eliminated on the first playoff hole when he again hit his tee shot into the water and ended with double bogey. Seltzer bogeyed the second hole of the playoff and Beurmann’s par was good enough to win the $7,000 first place prize and shake a 12-year draught of winning a major.

“I never gave up but it’s amazing how many times I’ve walked away from a tournament and said this is it because of my putting,” he said. “I’ve seen some crazy stuff over the years but never for me and it’s great to win in front of my friends and peers."

Four-time defending champion Scott Hebert of Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, fresh off an appearance in the PGA Championship, tied for fourth, six strokes back.

Top 10 finishers

*1, Ron Beurmann Country Club of Jackson 206 $7000.00
2, Sean Winters Bloomfield Hills Country Club 206 $3250.00
2, John Seltzer The Polo Fields in Ann Arbor 206 $3250.00
4, Scott Hebert Grand Traverse Resort Spa 212 $1800.00
4, Lee Houtteman Grand Traverse Resort Spa 212 $1800.00
6, Ian Ziska Manistee National Golf Resort 213 $1300.00
7, Eric Dovre Detroit Golf Club 214 $1100.00
8, Brian Cairns Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center 215 $906.67
8, Christopher Johnson Thousand Oaks Golf Club 215 $906.67
8, Frank McAuliffe Ann Arbor Country Club 215 $906.67

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Michigan PGA Championship returns to Hawk Hollow and Eagle Eye

It's been a busy week for golf in Michigan as the tournament scene slowly grinds to a halt as football takes over. Here's catching up on a few things.

MICHIGAN PGA PREVIEW: Scott Hebert will attempt to win his fifth consecutive Michigan PGA Championship at the Hawk Hollow Properties in East Lansing August 23-25. Hebert has been the only winner since the event moved to the Eagle Eye and Hawk Hollow golf courses in 2006. Hebert set the course record at Eagle Eye, eight-under 64, last year and coasted to a 13-stroke win.

It was recently announced that Hebert, a six-time Michigan Open golf champion and the 2008 PGA Professional National Championship, will be inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. The 40th annual induction banquet is April 23, 2011 at The Danforth Place in Escanaba.

“Scott is our section’s most celebrated player,” Michigan PGA Executive Director, Kevin Helm said in a release. “He just returned home from playing in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straights, he’s played in a number of PGA Tour events this year.”

Hebert’s four titles tie him with Grand Rapids’ Lynn Janson. Legendary golfers Chick Harbert (six championships) and Al Watrous (nine) are the only players in the history of this tournament with more wins. The field will feature 161 players in a 54-hole event. Players in the top 70 positions and ties will be vying for a piece of the $65,000 purse. The winner’s share is $7,000.

“We’re proud to host the championship and house the Michigan PGA Headquarters on our complex” said Alex Coss, General Manager of Hawk Hollow Properties. “PGA Professionals add so much to the game of the golf on the consumer level. It’s a privilege to have them playing here and receive such positive response to the quality of our courses.”

Past champions in the 2010 field include, two-time winners Brian Cairns from Fox Hills Golf Course, Steve Brady from Oakland Hills Country Club and Barry Redmond of Boyne Highlands. Other past champions include, John Traub of TNT Enterprises. Tom Harding of Kendall Academy of Golf, Joe Pollack of Boulder Creek Golf Club, Bob Makoski of Grosse Ile CC and Randy Erskine of Great Oaks Country Club.

HOLE IN ONE? If you celebrated a hole-in-one this year, you're eligible for the annual Detroit News/Golf Association of Michigan Hole-In-One Contest at Whispering Willows Golf Course in Livonia on Sept. 7. The tee opens at 7:30 a.m. and will remain open until there are no more contestants. Each contestant gets two swings for a chance at the grand prize: an Osprey Golf weekend getaway. The contest will be flighted by age. In addition, the Hole-In-One contest will be a fundraiser for the Folds of Honor program in the form of a raffle. Prizes include a stay-and-play package at Muskegon Country Club, golf at Meadowbrook Country Club, restaurant certificates and more. To submit entries, send your name, age, gender, phone number, and when and where you had your hole-in-one to Also indicate what time you would like to participate in the contest (tee times start at 7:30 a.m. and run throughout the day) and if you are a GAM member.

LUCK OF THE IRISH: When Paul Sutherland pulled out of the Travis Pointe parking lot in Saline after playing in the GAM Father & Son tournament and headed home to Cleveland, Ohio, the last thing he expected was a call from his dad telling him he had won the grand prize at the tournament: A trip for two to Ireland from GAM sponsor Sullivan Golf & Travel.

“We had finished playing golf fairly quickly, and I knew we didn’t win our bracket because it was a frustrating day on the golf course, so I decided to head back home before dinner,” said Sutherland. “My dad called me a few hours later to tell me I won the grand prize and what it was. I was shocked! I never win anything!”

LUCKY CADDIE: Point O’Woods member Stan Andrei gave his caddie a nice tip after notching a hole-in-one July 23 at the Robert Trent Jones Invitational. Andrei received a Jeep Wrangler 4x4 provided by Don Brookfield Chrysler for his ace and gave it to his caddie Dave Maxey. Maxey suggested the 5-iron for the 165-yard par 3, and Andrei wasn’t sure it was enough club. Andrei told Maxey before he teed off that if he made the ace, he would give Maxey the choice of a big tip or the Jeep. Maxey, 23, who was driving the same car he has had since high school, chose the Jeep.

SUPER SUPERINTENDENT: Crystal Mountain Golf Course Superintendent Adam Ikamas has earned the credential of Certified Golf Course Superintendent (CGCS) from the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association of America (GCSAA). There are approximately 17,000 golf courses in the United States yet roughly 1,700 superintendents have earned the CGCS distinction. Ikamas, who has been Crystal Mountain’s golf course superintendent for seven years, is one of just 68 to earn certification in the state of Michigan, which has over 800 courses. An extensive certification program is required in order to earn this credential. Each applicant must submit a portfolio consisting of their responses to skill statements, case-study scenarios and submission of work samples. An on-site inspection of their golf facility is required as well as a rigorous six-hour examination covering everything from equipment and irrigation systems to project management and ethics and values. As we all know, Crystal Mountain's two courses are always in excellent shape. We can all thank Ikamas for his hard work.

Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor breathing life back into Manitou Passage GC

Bob Kuras has always dreamed of having an 18-hole golf course at his beautiful Homestead Resort in Glen Arbor.

Kuras, president of the resort, fulfilled his dream with the purchase of the former King's Challenge course in nearby Cedar last year. Since then, he has poured his money, energy and spirit into reviving the Arnold Palmer signature course that had fallen into disrepair.

Now that the newly named Manitou Passage Golf Club is in a better place, he can joke about the challenges along the journey. He compared the revival of the course to a home remodel. And we all know how painful those can be, both emotionally and financially.

"You know when you paint the bathroom and it makes the bedroom look bad?" he told a small gathering of golf writers at Monday's media day. "And when you paint the bedroom, the kitchen looks awful. ... Every time we thought we were making progress, we found something else to do."

Unfortunately, I never played the former King's Challenge, but from what I've witnessed during a tour of the course last June to today, the facility has had a complete facelift. The new clubhouse, which was all torn up during my last visit, is now a delight. There's a little library area that honors the history of the "Manitou Passage," the narrow body of water visible from the stunning eighth tee. The cozy bar and grill serves quality food that is best enjoyed on the new multi-tiered patio overlooking the 18th green and a colorful bed of flowers and landscaping. The pro shop is stocked with logo gear.

During media day, I teed it up with Stefan Carlsmith, a longtime instructor with the Dave Pelz Golf School at The Homestead. He was an excellent tour guide who went into greater detail on many of the course changes.

Most of the work focused on the tees and bunkers. Several tees, notably on the fourth and 16th holes, were moved to soften dog legs and give players a better angle to the fairway.

A new tee was added on No. 18 to transform a murderous par-4 into a go-for-broke 492-yard par-5 that longer hitters can eagle if they safely navigate the pond guarding the right side. The course now plays a slightly longer 6,668 yards from the tips.

Dozens of bunkers were reshaped while others were moved or filled in.

Even the signature hole, the par-5 eighth, was extensively reworked. The fairway used to be a hog-back shape that repelled shots into the woods. It was leveled to reward good play.

Overgrown trees and weeds were removed throughout. For example, a fairway was added to the par-3 third hole. The changes were all made to make a tight course play a little friendlier. It still plays much harder than its yardage from the blue tees (6,257 yards) imply.

The course conditioning is just beginning to round into form as well. The grounds crew has aerated the greens nine times within last year, bringing them back to life. They roll true.

Once newly planted fescue grows in to define a number of fairways, the course's visual appeal should jump off the charts.

"The changes have all really helped the golf course," Carlsmith said.

Kuras has talked about bringing world-class golf to the Leelanau Peninsula. He's well on his way to making the dream a reality.

For tee times visit or call 231-228-6000.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nicklaus, Palmer, Miller and Watson wow the crowds in the Champions for Change at the Golf Club of Harbor Shores

Forget the Buick Open.

Michigan golf fans wouldn't miss the PGA Tour if they could experience more fantastic events like the Champions for Change, the charity shootout that served as a grand opening celebration for the Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor.

The 3,600 fans lucky enough to secure tickets witnessed quite possibly the most star-studded foursome ever assembled for a charity event. Jack Nicklaus, the course designer, hosted Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller in a scramble skins shootout that delivered both great shot-making and fun-loving banter between the four legendary friends.

They've combined to win 35 major titles and 199 PGA Tour titles in one foursome, folks. Incredible.

I heard one African-American golf fan exclaim: "I can't believe Jack Nicklaus is in Benton Harbor. I walked from my house to see Jack Nicklaus."

Watson, 60, was on form, showcasing the shotmaking that almost won him the 2009 British Open. Playing with Arnold Palmer as his partner, he eagled the 14th hole on his own ball. Even with Nicklaus playfully interupting his routine to remind him that the putt on the 18th green was for the match, Watson stepped up and sank it without a moment's doubt.

Miller, the lead golf analyst for NBC, had his moments, but it was Nicklaus, even at age 70, that looked like he could still compete on the Champions Tour. In the most memorable moment of the day, Miller was all set to hit a lob wedge from the lower tier of the green on the par-5 10th hole when Nicklaus stepped in trying to save his course's green from getting a chunk ripped out of it. Nicklaus promptly holed his improbable putt up and over a severe slope, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

"For it to go in was pure freakin' luck," Nicklaus said afterward. "That was what I got the biggest kick out of today."

The tournament was my first look at the 6,861-yard, par-71 course. It's a beauty. The three dune holes at No. 7-9 are gorgeous and challenging. Boaters watched the action from the holes that touch the Paw Paw River -- No. 3 and 14-15 and No. 18. Nicklaus' chief designer Chris Rule added some unique touches like two greens on the sixth hole, a shorter one without the long carry over the river and one across the water.

And let's not forget that the whole event and course came to be for one purpose: To revitalize the economy in the sister communities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. The 530-acre non-profit Harbor Shores project could eventually build out to include a hotel, marina, a town center and shops, a fitness center and nearly 800 different residences. For more, visit

"What I would like to see in 10 years, I'd like to see the course have success, to create jobs, to create housing and a tax base," Nicklaus said.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

LPGA star Natalie Gulbis up next for a visit to The Loon Golf Resort in Gaylord

If Natalie Gulbis is half as good a host as Butch Harmon was on his visit to the Loon Golf Resort for his pro-am July 31-Aug. 1, the lucky golfers who sign up for either of Gulbis' upcoming events in northern Michigan are in for a spectacular treat.

Harmon, the No. 1 instructor in the world, was comfortable wherever he was ... talking to reporters in his new building that houses his new Butch Harmon School of golf, with a mike in his hand telling stories to the crowd after dinner, hitting trick shots in his clinic, signing autographs, taking pictures on the course, etc. Harmon was just one of the guys, making it a real treat to meet him.

The Loon staff went over-the-top in making it a first-class tournament. I won't spill the secrets of what went down, but golfers can expect the same treatment if they sign up for the Natalie Gulbis Charity Classic August 13-15 or the Natalie Gulbis Showcase September 24-26.

Luring Gulbis and Harmon to the Loon Golf Resort in Gaylord, along with the new golf school and 11 new townhomes on site, show the resort commitment to becoming one of the premier golfing experiences in northern Michigan. The course is currently in phenominal shape.

"We are very excited to have Natalie Gulbis coming to The Loon Golf Resort this summer and helping us create two unique and special events for golfers and charity," said Matt Preuss, General Manager at The Loon Golf Resort. "Both will be must play golf events in northern Michigan this season and a great opportunity for golfers to meet and interact with the one of the most popular LPGA stars on tour."

The two-day 36-hole events will include a four-person team format with amateurs competing in both gross and net divisions. Gulbis will offer private clinics for the contestants, including a junior clinic for kids, as well as participating on golf holes, and interacting with each group.

The cost to participate in the pro-am event is $2,000 per four-person team, a real bargain considering how much face time each team gets with Gulbis. The price includes practice rounds on Friday, two tournament rounds, clinics with Gulbis, cocktails, meals, as well as awards and prizes. In addition, the first 20 teams to register will receive lodging at the Loon Golf Resort.

For those of you interested in instruction, four of Harmon’s instructors from Las Vegas will lead five different three-day golf schools at the Loon’s expanded driving range from Aug. 17 to Sept. 2.

For more, visit

Monday, August 2, 2010

Brehm wins Michigan Women's Am, Pressel visits Carl's Golfland

ST. CLAIR -- It was an all green and white final at the 94th Michigan Women’s Amateur at St. Clair River Country Club. Michigan State University senior Natalie Brehm (Mount Pleasant) defeated incoming freshman Christine Meier, 4&3.

Brehm was the 2009 runner-up and was driven to win this year.

“I was really hoping I wouldn’t end up getting the second-place trophy again,” said Brehm. “It was fun to play against Christine. She played really well and I can tell you from what I saw today we are going to have a great team at MSU this year.”

The only thing that could have made the day more perfect for Brehm was if her brother Ryan could have been in attendance. He was runner-up in the Men’s Amateur in 2006 and won the championship in 2007. That makes the Brehms the first brother-sister tandem to win the state amateur.

“He’s playing in Alabama this week but I talked to him on the phone last night and he said he really wished he could be here,” Brehm said. “It is really cool that we both were amateur champions. I guess its kind of historic.”

Both Brehm and Meier, of Rochester Hills, struggled with putting through the first seven holes of the championship round. Brehm had back-to-back birdies on the par-5 8th hole and par-4 9th and kept pulling steadily ahead after making the turn. Her birdie putt on 15 clinched the match.

“It was great because I didn’t have to play that par 3 on 16 again,” said Brehm. “I really struggled with that hole this morning and it gave me some problems earlier this week. But I felt like I played a lot better overall this afternoon.”

Both semifinal matches went to 18 holes with Brehm defeating Lindsey Lammers (Milan/University of Detroit) and Meier defeating her sister Amy Meier (Ohio State University).

“It was just a battle this morning,” said Brehm. “I didn’t feel like either one of us was playing our best golf and it came down to the last hole.”

Meier said it was fun to play two familiar foes in one day; her sister and her teammate.

“It was just a lot of fun and Natalie is such a sweet girl,” said Meier. “It was a great tournament and it's exciting just to make it to the final. And my coach was on my bag yesterday so feel like I got a little taste of what it's going to be like playing for the Spartans.”

There were may Spartan supporters in the gallery which Meier and Brehm both appreciated.

“It was great to hear ‘Go green! Go white!’,” said Brehm. “So many people from the club and the community came out to watch us and support us. It really means a lot and the atmosphere at the tournament was just wonderful.”

SPECIAL VISIT: Female players around the state should take advantage of Michigan's own Morgan Pressel returning home to host a clinic 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3, at Carl's Golfland in Bloomfield Hills. Pressel, from Grosse Pointe, is fresh off an eighth-place finish at the Ricoh Women's British Open.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Matthews wins dramatic Boyne Tournament of Champions

BOYNE FALLS, Mich. - Andy Matthews, of Ada, erased a four shot deficit over the final three holes to win the Boyne Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain Resort.

Matthews, 30, is a seasoned Canadian Tour professional and was trailing 15-year old Henry Do of Ypsilanti when the storybook ending for a sophomore in high school competing with Michigan’s best golfers turned into a putting nightmare. Do shook the Michigan golfing community by shooting a 10-under par 62 in Tuesday’s second round. He started the final round with a two-stroke advantage over LPGA Tour player Allison Fouch and a three stroke lead over Matthews. That lead was expanded to four shots as the final group headed to the fateful last three holes.

“I was kind of nervous, “ Do said. “I told myself to be confident and just make pars until a birdie situation became available.”

The five-foot four-inch Do did just that and was 11-under sailing into the 16th hole. He proceeded to three put 16 while Matthews birdied. That two stroke swing left him with a two-stroke lead heading to the par 3 17th. Do three putted again on 17 to take a one shot lead into the final hole. On the par 5 18th, Do and Matthews both laid up and hit wedges for their third shots landing well below the hole. Do nearly missed his putt while showing Matthews the line. Matthews made the 35-footer for birdie to get to 9-under. Do missed his two footer for par and a chance for a playoff. Matthew's won $10,000 of the $55,000 purse.

“I was stunned when Henry missed,” Matthews said. “I got a great look from his putt. I feel for Henry. We’ve all been there and he will grow from the experience."

The Tournament of Champions is a unique event pitting men, women, juniors and seniors together on Boyne Mountain’s Alpine course. The men play from the back tees at 6,938 yards, the senior men and high schoolers play from 6,562 yards and the women play from 5,898 yards. Matthews was the low man, Fouch the low woman at 6 under, Dave Kendall was the low senior at 5 under and Do was the low amateur at 7 under.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Liu breaks record set by Tiger Woods to win U.S. Junior Amateur at Egypt Valley

Michigan golf fans who attended the U.S. Junior Amateur witnessed history at Egypt Valley in Ada.

Jim Liu, of Smithtown, N.Y., became the youngest champion in the history of the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship with his 4-and-2 victory over Justin Thomas, of Goshen, Ky., in the final match.

The 14-year-old Liu, who was born on Aug. 9, 1995, broke by more than seven months the previous championship record held by Tiger Woods, who was 15 years, 6 months and 28 days old when he won the 1991 championship.

“It is an honor to be just a part of the list of champions,” Liu said. “But to break Tiger's record is just a big plus. I have never thought I would do it, but it just happened to be my year this year.”

It certainly was Liu’s week on the hilly Egypt Valley course. After he quietly made his way through the stroke-play cut, Liu went on a tear through the match-play bracket, with only two of his matches going the full 18 holes.

“The first two rounds I either hit the ball good or I putted well,” Liu said. “I just didn't do it in the same round. After stroke play, I started to do it in the same round. I think that's just a matter of time and luck.”

Thomas opened the morning’s portion of the match by quickly building a 2-up lead through the first three holes. Liu was able to stay close to Thomas through the constant rain, tallying his first birdie on the fourth hole. He squared the match with a birdie that was nearly an ace on the par-3 eighth hole.

Liu started the back nine of the morning round with another birdie and never looked back from there. He shot the equivalent of 8 under par (with the usual match-play concessions) for the morning round, and then cruised through the afternoon round, shooting the equivalent of 1 under par, and ultimately closed the match out on the 34th hole.

Thomas' struggles with the putter proved to be his downfall.

“I played well enough to win, but it was just a couple putts here and there,” Thomas said. “There’s not many times you shoot 5 under in your first 18 and you’re 3 down. It was fun, but it’s unfortunate to lose.”

Thomas, who affectionately refers to Liu as “Slim Jim,” was able to pare his opponent’s lead down to one hole on two occasions on the afternoon’s second nine, the last occurring after he birdied the 31st hole. However, Liu quickly pushed back and won the next three holes to wrap up the match.

“This being my only year, it was unfortunate to get to the finals and not get it done, but I didn’t lose it, I got beat,” Thomas said. “I can’t be upset about that. It’s upsetting that I didn’t win, but it’s not upsetting that I didn’t lose it. I just got beat. He played great golf and deserves it.”

With their appearances in the final match, Liu and Thomas both received exemptions into the 2010 U.S. Amateur Championship, being held August 23-29 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Egypt Valley hosts U.S. Junior Amateur all this week

There's a chance golf fans in greater Grand Rapids could catch a glimpse of the next Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson.

For the first time in its history, the USGA is bringing a national championship to western Michigan. Starting today and continuing through Saturday, Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada will host the 63rd U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.

Jordan Spieth, the 2009 champion, will attempt to defend the title that he captured at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., at age 15. Spieth, who tied for
16th place in the PGA Tour's HP Byron Nelson Championship in May playing under an amateur exemption, will attempt to become only the second player to win back-to-back Junior Amateur Championships. Tiger Woods took home the title three straight times, from 1991 to 1993.

The championship is open to the public free of charge. It will feature 156 golfers competing in two days of stroke-play qualifying on Monday and Tuesday, followed by six rounds of match play to determine a champion. The 36-hole championship match is scheduled for Saturday.

Other past winners of the championship include such accomplished players as Gay Brewer, Johnny Miller, Gary Koch, David Duval and Hunter Mahan. The Junior Amateur has another distinction: It is the only USGA championship for which Jack Nicklaus has been eligible that he did not win at least once. Nicklaus qualified for the championship five times; his best finish came in 1956, when he was a semifinalist.

This is the first USGA championship conducted at Egypt Valley, which was designed by Arthur Hills and opened in 1990. Egypt Valley hosted a Champions Tour event between 1994 and 2004. This is the fourth U.S. Junior Amateur to be held in Michigan, including the inaugural championship in 1948 at the University of Michigan Golf Club in Ann Arbor. The last Junior Amateur conducted in the state was in 1980 at Pine Lake Country Club in Orchard Lake, won by Eric Johnson.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Crystal Mountain's Michigan Women's Open still going strong

The Buick Open. The Ford Senior Players Championship. The Bay Mills Open. The Treetops Par-3 Shoot-out.

The tournament scene in Michigan has lost many great events over the past five years, but only a handful have weathered the financial storm.

The Michigan PGA Women's Open is one of them. The 54-hole championship enters its eighth year when 80 top female pros from 14 states tee it up July 12-14 at Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa in Thompsonville to compete for another $40,000 purse.

The field features top amateurs and players from both the Futures and LPGA Tours, including LPGA Tour winners Elaine Crosby and Cindy Figg-Currier, LPGA veteran and recent inductee into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, Sue Ertl, as well as Laura Kueny, the Big Ten Player of the Year.

Rehmann has pledged its support as the first Green Sponsor of the Open. Wind energy credits will be purchased through Renewable Choice Energy, a longtime partner of Crystal Mountain, to cover the carbon footprint of the Pro-Am. The number of participants, travel distance, transportation, food consumed and energy costs are among the factors included in that calculation. In total, this commitment by Rehmann will prevent the release of approximately 15.45 metric tons of CO2 or the equivalent of planting 450 trees.

“Rehmann is honored to be the first ‘Green’ sponsor of the Michigan PGA Women’s Open,” remarks Steve Kelly, Rehmann Chairman and CEO. “We have been committed to the success of the people and businesses of Michigan for nearly 70 years and are proud to be a part of this prestigious event.”

This latest partnership with Rehmann is consistent with Crystal Mountain’s commitment to environmental stewardship. The resort was among the first members of the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program and was one of 15 resorts nationwide recognized by Golf Digest for their environmental commitment which most recently included the addition of the Midwest’s only LEED-certified spa. This spring, Crystal Mountain CEO Jim MacInnes was honored as one of 16 Michigan Green Leaders by the Detroit Free Press.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grand Haven Golf Club hosts Folds of Honor's Patriot Day

Dan Rooney, the owner of Grand Haven Golf Club, continues to support his military comrades by hosting the the Folds of Honor Foundation and the Patriot Golf Day Tournament on Friday, July 16, 2010.

If you only support one charity golf event, this is one of the best in Michigan. Rooney, a jet fighter pilot who has done several tours of duty in Iraq, has created a wave of momentum to get the PGA of America and more than 1,000 golf courses across the country to support the cause.

Proceeds benefit the Folds of Honor Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which provides post-secondary educational scholarships for the spouses and children of military service men and women killed or disabled while serving the U.S. military. The tournament is so popular it actually runs two separate shifts in one day. It begins with an 8:00 a.m. shotgun start, and a second shotgun start will begin at 1:00 p.m.

Entry fees for the tournament are $125 per player, or $75 for Grand Haven Golf Club members and military veterans, and $50 for active duty military. Each entry fee includes 18 holes of golf with cart, breakfast, lunch, happy hour (free Labatts Blue and non-alcoholic beverages), Patriot Day golf shirt and hat and prizes.

The Bruce Matthews senior course, opening in 1965, is one of the best along Michigan's western shore. Several sandy dunes highlight a good mix of holes. Call the club at (616) 842-4040 or visit for more.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Future Wolverine Joey Garber wins Michigan Amateur

Surrounded by a near-record crowd of family, friends and club members, 18-year old Joey Garber of Petoskey won the 99th Michigan Amateur Championship at Oakhurst Golf & Country Club, 2 & 1 over Eric Lilleboe of Okemos.

Garber took control of the match right out of the gate by winning the first three holes.

“It’s all about getting into the moment and getting the lead,” said Garber. “He’s a good player and he played everyone really well this week. “My caddie (Jimmy Dewling) and I had a game plan before I teed off on the final match to turn at all square and then start my push on the back. I’ve played holes 10 through 18 really well this week. I knew those holes had to be where I took the lead.”

It didn’t go exactly how Garber had planned, because Lilleboe won three holes in a row to go 1 up after 9 and kept the lead until hole No. 12, where Garber won the hole to bring the match back to all square. Garber proceeded to win 13 with a par.

“He deserved to win,” said Lilleboe. “We’re friends, we’ve played together a lot up north and he’s a really good player. I just finished up my senior year at Ferris State University and my last amateur tournament will be the U.S. Amateur Qualifier at Boyne – The Heather Course on July 22 before turning professional this fall."

Garber has won four GAM Championships in the last four years, but "I really wanted to win this championship; it’s the most important tournament in the state.”

Garber is also the third youngest player ever to win the Michigan Amateur Championship. The second famous amateur ever to live, Chuck Kocsis won it in 1930 at the age of 17, and Korey Mahoney won it at age 18 in 2002.

By winning the Michigan Amateur, Garber receives an automatic five-year exemption into the Michigan Amateur Championship, as well as The Western Amateur, Susquehana Amateur in Pennsylvania, the Michigan Open and the GAM Championship.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

College players advance at Michigan Amateur

CLARKSTON, Mich. - The 40-somethings are out. The young guns are in. And Tom Werkmeister won't be around on the weekend at Oakhurst Golf & Country Club in Clarkston to defend his Michigan Amateur title.

Tom Werkmeister, 42 (Kentwood), was defeated by Eric Lilleboe, of Okemos after 20 holes. The roles were reversed for Lilleboe, a Ferris State player, who lost last year to Werkmeister in the quarterfinals on the last hole.

"I wanted to play him again and knew I would because he has been the best amateur in the state for the last year, it was a grind and I was glad I got to play him but at the same time I didn't want to," said Lilleboe.

Joseph Juszczyk, a former Wayne State player from Dearborn Heights and the 2009 Michigan Amateur Championship Medalist, will face Lilleboe in the first semifinal at 8 a.m. The two are familiar foes as they have faced each other about 10 times this past year in college and other amateur events.

The other match will also feature two college players Joey Garber (Petoskey) and Nick Carbary (Kalamazoo). Garber, 18, is an incoming University of Michigan freshmen, who made 4 birdies on the holes 13 -16 to finish off his match against 38-year-old Jeff Champine (Rochester Hills), 4 and 2. Garber's previous best finish in the Michigan Amateur was as a quarterfinalist:

"It's good to get past the hump to the elite 8, it will help me make the transition from junior golf to college golf," he said.

Friday Quarterfinal Match Play Results
Lilleboe def. Werkmeister, 20 holes
Juszczyk def. Brownback, 3 & 2
Garber def. Champine, 4 & 2
Carbary def. Peterson, 19 holes

Saturday Semi-Final Matches

Lilleboe vs. Juszczyk 8:00 am

Garber vs. Carbary 8:15 am

Friday, June 25, 2010

Top seeds falling at Michigan Amateur

Clarkston, MI – There were a lot of surprises during the first two rounds of match play at the 99th Michigan Amateur Championship at Oakhurst Golf & Country Club, as five of the top ten seeds lost their matches. The medalist, Tim Katanski (Ypsilanti) lost his first match to the 64th seeded player, David Brownback (DeWitt) 3&2.

Brownback won in a playoff to survive stroke play.

“I missed my wife’s and my anniversary on Tuesday, missed my wife’s birthday on Wednesday and I even had a special dinner planned for her but then had to call her to cancel because I was in a playoff for the final spot so I’m in the dog house and I don’t even get paid for this.” said Brownback. “The only way I can make this work is if I come home with the trophy.”

The group in the sweet sixteen is rather young, as 11 of the players left are under age 25, including Nick Carbary (Kalamazoo), Chris Cunningham (Milford), Kasey Hocquard (Cheboygan), Joseph Juszczyk (Dearborn Heights), Chad Johnson (Plymouth), Eric Lilleboe (Okemos), Joey Garber (Petoskey), Drew Preston (Ada), Matt Thompson (Battle Creek), Hrynewich, Brett Hudson (Bloomfield Hills), and Aaron Peterson (Ann Arbor).

The Championship continues on Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. There are several intriguing matchups, including the 2009 Michigan Amateur runner-up Matt Thompson (Battle Creek) vs. Jeff Champine (Rochester Hills) and Juszczyk (2009 Michigan Amateur Medalist and Wayne State Senior) vs. Johnson, his college teammate. The quarterfinal matches will take place on Friday afternoon, with the semifinals and final match scheduled for Saturday.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Michigan Amateur heads into match play

Clarkston, MI – For the second straight day at the 99th Michigan Amateur Championship, only two players Tim Katanski (Ypsilanti) and Johnathan Pauli (DeWitt) broke par at Oakhurst Golf & Country Club. Katanski followed his first round of even-par 71 with a 69 today to capture medalist honors. Katanski’s two day total of 140 edged defending Champion Tom Werkmeister (Kentwood) who shot 70-73-143, and Pauli who shot 73-70-143 and Nick Carbary (Kalamazoo) who shot 71-72-143.

“I had a good feeling coming in here,” Katanski said. “Oakhurst’s superintendent (Kyle Celmer) has this course in phenomenal shape and the greens are rolling great. It’s a comfortable yardage into the holes and the fairways are very generous. I only missed one fairway all day on hole # 9. I love the layout of this course. I think Oakhurst is a fair test and has plenty of room to hit the ball perfectly.”

Werkmeister bogied the last three out of the four holes.
The Championship continues on Thursday morning at 7:15 a.m. with the beginning of match play. The 64-player field was completed after David Brownback (Haslett) captured the final spot in a playoff. The ten players who finished at 156 had an immediate hole-by-hole playoff for one spot. Two rounds of matches will be played on Thursday to reduce the field from 64 to the “Sweet Sixteen.”

The leaderboard following Wednesday’s second round of stroke play at the 99th Michigan Amateur Championship played on the par-71 Oakhurst Golf & Country Club.

Tim Katanski, Ypsilanti 71-69-140
Jonathan Pauli, DeWitt 73-70-143
Nick Carbary, Kalamazoo 71-72-143
Tom Werkmeister, Kentwood 70-73-143
Eric Lilleboe, Okemos 73-71-144
Matthew Thompson, Battle Creek 70-74-144
Martin Jeppesen, Ypsilanti 73-71-144
Payne Gniewek, Trenton 74-71-145

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Familiar names atop Michigan Amateur first-round leaderboard

Clarkston, MI – Difficult conditions at Oakhurst Golf & Country Club led to plenty of high scores in the first round of stroke play qualifying at the 99th Michigan Amateur Championship on Tuesday, June 22, 2010. The championship field of 156 Michigan players faced a constant swirling wind, 3 to 4 1/2-inch rough, and green speeds stimping at 10 1/2. Only two players shot under par, and 71 players shot 80 or over.

Defending champion, Tom Werkmeister of Kentwood, and University of Michigan junior-to-be Matt Thompson of Battle Creek, last year's runner-up, both shot 70. The duo attributed their solid rounds to consistency and talked about the difficulty of the greens.

“I got off to a good start and turned at one over”, Thompson said. “I birdied holes #16 and #17 which calmed my nerves. This course fits my game. It’s probably one of the toughest courses that the Michigan Amateur Championship has ever been played on.”

Werkmeister had this to say: “I played really badly yesterday during my practice round and didn’t know what was going to happen today,” he said. “I was consistent. I had two birdies on holes #5 and #7 and one bogey. I played the tough par 3’s even par – so I was happy with that. It was very windy and we did get caught in the rain early on but overall I’m happy.”

Stroke play continues Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. Following Wednesday’s round, the 36-hole stroke play medalist will be determined and a hole-by-hole playoff will take place, if necessary, to cut the field to an even 64 players for match play. Match play begins Thursday morning with two rounds of matches on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

* Here is the leaderboard following Tuesday’s first round of stroke play at the 99th Michigan Amateur Championship played on the par-71 Oakhurst Golf & Country Club:

Matthew Thompson, Battle Creek 37-33-70

Tom Werkmeister, Kentwood 34-36-70

Nick Carbary, Kalamazoo 37-34-71

Tim Katanski, Ypsilanti 36-35-71

Greg Reynolds, Grand Blanc 37-35-72

Jeff Champine, Rochester Hills 35-37-72

Martin Jeppesen, Ypsilanti 37-36-73

Eric Lilleboe, Okemos 36-37-73

Erik Schleicher, Grosse Pte Shores 38-35-73

Eric Spencer, Bloomfield Hills 37-36-73

Kevin Klemet, White Lake 37-36-73

Steven Fedewa, Howell 36-37-73

Jonathan Pauli, DeWitt 36-37-73

Anthony Sorentino, Shelby Twp, 35-38-73

Monday, June 21, 2010

99th Michigan Amateur set to tee off at Oakhurst in Clarkston

Golfers teeing it up in this week's Michigan Amateur will have their hands full with the treacherous greens of the Oakhurst Golf & Country Club in Clarkston.

The 99th Michigan Amateur, run by the Golf Association of Michigan, tees off with stroke play on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by 64 players who then advance to match play starting Thursday until a champion is crowned Sunday.

Tom Werkmeister, 42, of Kentwood, returns to defend his title.

"It's been a privilege being champion," he said at media day Monday. "I've lived on a cloud the past 12 months. It's something that you can never take away from me."

Werkmeister beat the University of Michigan's Matt Thompson in last year's final, but even he concedes Thompson will be tough to beat this year. Thompson, a sophomore, was all-Big Ten after setting a Wolverine scoring record average of 72 for 18 holes during the season.

"I can't see him staying an amateur much longer," Werkmeister said.

Thompson hopes to seal the deal this summer.

“I was able to compete to (nearly) win some tournaments (within the last year),” Thompson told “I put myself in position and was close to the lead going into the last rounds. Hopefully I can get in position and figure out how to close some of those tournaments out.”

Oakhurst should be a great match-play venue, according to all involved. There are several potential drivable par-4s, notably the 303-yard 16th hole. Dean Horn, the president of Oakhurst, said the course, which opened in 1998, has never been in better shape. The beautiful 40,000-square-foot clubhouse will provide many a comfortable home base for all involved.

Michigan golf legend Dan Pohl, who won twice on the PGA Tour, said the Arthur Hills course has the toughest set of greens he's ever had to read.

"The eyes show you one thing and the ball will go the opposite," agrees Bruce Baringer, a four-time club champion who will have the home-course advantage this week.

Ken Hartmann, the senior director of rules and competitions for the GAM, said the par 3s will make or break the players.

"No. 8 (200 yards), No. 12 (189 yards) and No. 14 (175 yards) are pretty nasty," he said.

Oakhurst plans to use the tournament to showcase its course and facilities. The club has added 35 new members this year, despite the economic challenges of the golf scene in metro Detroit. The club, built inside a 400-home community, boasts 300 members, a large pool, tennis courts and a market next to the clubhouse.

"There is a heartbeat here," Horn said. " ... We like to think the best years are ahead of us."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Big-hitting Brehm wins second straight Michigan Open

Orchard Lake, Mich. — Ryan Brehm of Mt. Pleasant erased a two-shot deficit to capture his second consecutive Michigan Open championship. The 24-year old Hooters Tour player shot a final round 67 for a tournament total of 268 at the Orchard Lake Country Club. Gary Smithson of Grand Rapids had the low round of the day with a 65 that moved him into a tie for second with Eric Wohlfield of Brighton at 270. Andy Matthew of Ada, who had led the entire tournament slipped to fourth-place 273 with a final round 74.

“I enjoyed coming from behind,” Brehm said. “It brought out the best in me.
“This feels really good. It’s just nice to win and beat a good field.”

Brehm’s win last year was different in that he got out to an early lead in the first round and finished the tournament at 20-under par which was 8-shots better than second place.

Smithson charged through the field shooting 4-under par on the front nine. The 42-year old head professional at Thousand Oaks Golf Club bogeyed the last hole however, which gave Brehm the 2-stroke cushion playing two groups behind. “I feel sick to my stomach” he said after the tournament. “I’m pretty disappointed with my finish.”

The other runner up, Wohlfield felt entirely different. He was ecstatic about his finish and hopes the $4,250 he earned today will help get him to the tour-qualifying event in November. “It was my worst round of the week but I’m happy with it. It was fun to play with Andy and we were hitting 60-yards behind Brehm all day with our second shots.”

Brehm earns $10,000 for his win out of the $70,000 purse. The Michigan Open will change venues next year moving to The Orchards in Washington Township.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

TPC of Michigan still one of the state's best

The Tournament Players Club of Michigan has unfortunately fallen off the radar a bit after losing its signature Ford Senior Players Championship in 2006.

But as I found out recently, the host of 16 Champions Tour majors is just as dramatic and thrilling to play these days as it was during its heyday. The private course was purchased by The Heritage Golf Group of San Diego in 2007, joining four other TPCs under the Heritage umbrella – TPC Eagle Ridge, TPC Prestancia, TPC Tampa Bay and TPC Piper Glen. All five are excellent facilities that continue to earn status as Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuaries.

The service you come to expect from a TPC property trickles from the top down, led by General Manager Lee Woodruff, who has had stints working at Garland Resort and the Detroit Golf Club. Assistant head professional Nate Matejek recently earned his Class A membership from the PGA of America.

Woodruff says the TPC is unique because most of its memberships are corporate in nature. Traditionally, the course is busier during the week with corporate events and small outings, he said, than it is on the weekend.

Thanks to two corporate partnerships, the Jack Nicklaus course is accessible as a stay-and-play package with the MGM Grand Detroit, downtown’s most luxurious casino resort.

The “Tee” golf package at the MGM, costing $399, includes two rounds, transportation to and from the course and one night to experience all the wonders of MGM. If only one person in the room is a golfer, the other round can be converted into a 50-minute massage at MGM’s stunning Immerse Spa and Salon, a two-story urban loft inspired by the world’s most calming element: water.

How ironic … considering that water tortures almost every golfer at the TPC. If you get the chance to tee it up here – either by joining as a member or as a member-for-a-day during a corporate outing or with a stay-and-play package – don’t turn it down. This is one of Michigan’s most prestigious tee times.

The TPC of Michigan has always had a reputation for being too tough for many high-handicappers but that caught my fancy about the place. The narrow fairways twist through mounds and around intimidating water hazards. You have to be precise or be wet.

It’s easy to pucker up anywhere on the sixth hole, a short par 4 that requires a steady 3-wood and short iron to avoid the water. The approach shots on the par-4 14th, requiring at least a 160-yard blast over wetland to the green, and the par-5 17th, guarded by water up the entire left side, are equally intimidating.

After the round, golfers can enjoy the spoils of a 28,000-square-foot clubhouse that serves great food. Or just a short distance away is Andiamo Ristorante, a casually elegant haunt on Michigan Avenue serving succulent prime rib, steak, seafood and pasta.

Visit for more.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Golf Club at Harbor Shores to host 2 Senior PGAs, charity shootout

I knew the Golf Club at Harbor Shores would be special, but I didn’t know it would be THIS special.

The 6,981-yard, par-71 course, roaming through the forest and dunes of Benton Harbor, rocked the Michigan golf scene with a pair of stunning announcements last week. The course, set to open all 18 holes July 1, will host a charity shootout featuring designer Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller on Aug. 10, bringing much needed excitement to a tournament golf scene in Michigan sorely lacking any luster.

The move by KitchenAid, a division of Benton Harbor-based Whirlpool Corp., to sponsor the Senior PGA Championship from 2011-2014 no doubt sealed Harbor Shores’ bid to host the prestigious Champions Tour major in 2012 and 2014. That’s three must-watch tournaments added to the Michigan golf calendar in the near future to complement the 2012 U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion.

Michigan might not have enough sponsorship dollars available to attract the PGA Tour, but these events help fill the void. Last summer, the Buick Open folded last year after a 51-year run in the state. And it seems even the great Oakland Hills Country Club might not be active at all as a tournament venue this decade.

The love from the old guys should help soften the snub by the world’s greatest players. The Champions Tour is becoming more popular all over again, thanks to the competitive fires still burning within former major champions Freddy Couples, Nick Price, Mark O’Meara, Tom Kite and others.

And the charity event featuring a skins format featuring rotating two-man teams should be the coolest “exhibition” to hit Michigan since the 2004 Arnold Palmer Turning Point Invitational that featured dozens of former U.S. Amateur winners at the Country Club of Detroit (although the Par-3 Shootout at Treetops was also fun to watch). It will serve as the course's official "grand opening."

The legendary foursome of Watson, Palmer, Nicklaus and Miller offer a combined 199 Tour wins and 35 majors. This could be the last time spirited rivals Nicklaus and Palmer tee it up together. And Miller, the controversial voice of NBC, never plays “competitively” anymore. A limited number of $50 tickets will be sold with access to the course and a clinic. In addition, an Evening for Champions “roundtable” discussion will be held at the Mendel Center Mainstage at Lake Michigan College from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. Tickets are available for $25 at

“I consider Arnold, Tom and Johnny among my closest friends in golf, so I not only look forward to getting together with them again but also having them with me as we celebrate the opening of The Golf Club at Harbor Shores,” Jack Nicklaus said in a statement. “The Harbor Shores Champions for Change event is a great opportunity to highlight how golf is being used as a vehicle for social and economic revitalization, particularly in the Benton Harbor community.”

All of these events will be a boon for Michigan’s beleaguered economy, both financially and emotionally. Money from all over Michigan, not to mention Chicago and Indiana, should pour into Benton Harbor during these tournaments. It’s clear that golf and the real estate and resort development at Harbor Shores is the best thing to happen to Benton Harbor in decades.

For tee times, call 269-927-GOLF or visit

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Orchard Lake CC preparing for 2010 Michigan Open

The Michigan Open is set to return to Orchard Lake Country Club for the second straight year June 14-17 for its 93rd edition.

Thanks to a little luck from Mother Nature, the historic club’s classic design was one of the few area Oakland County courses to escape the winter unscathed. Ice damage forced some of OLCC’s neighboring clubs to re-sod greens and fairways.
The Harry Colt-C. H. Alison design looked in prime shape during a visit last month. The rough was starting to thicken and the greens as smooth as glass.

“We were lucky,” OLCC head pro Brian Dice said.

The buzz surrounding this tournament will surround defending champion Ryan Brehm, a former Michigan State University star trying to make his way to the PGA Tour. The Oakland Press reported in April that Brehm will defend his title, but Dice indicated that U.S. Open qualifying could prevent his return. Brehm’s power dazzled fans and competitors alike in 2009. He successfully drove the fourth and sixth greens, outmuscling the field to shoot 20-under-par. He bested Jeff Roth, a former champion, by eight shots.

“Orchard Lake Country Club is a great fit for my style of golf,” Brehm told the paper. “The firm and fast greens emphasize good course management and precise approach shots and the par-5s are a good combination of risk and reward.”
His 264 was three short of the record set by Michigan legend Chick Harbert.

Although the course got rave reviews from players, the tournament will move to The Orchards, a public course in Macomb County for 2011 and 2012. I don’t think you can go wrong with either venue. Orchard Lake is shorter and void of ball-gobbling water hazards, yet its rolling terrain and elevated sloping greens make scoring a challenge.

The Orchards, home of the 2002 USGA’s National Public Links Championship, features tighter tee shots and the potential to rack up penalty shots for balls lost in wetlands. Both should provide a dramatic theater for one of Michigan's most historic tournaments.

For more visit

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center features something for everyone

The Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center has always been southeast Michigan’s most unique public facility. The story lines are almost endless.

• First and foremost, with 63 holes, it is the largest golf facility in metro Detroit.
• The course is owned and operated by two sisters, Kathy Dul Aznavorian and Sandy Dul Mily. They are a formidable duo in an industry dominated by white males.
• The Golden Fox, the signature track by Arthur Hills, was one of the region’s first “country club for a day” experiences built for public players, opening in 1989, the same time as Pine Trace Golf Club in Rochester. The success of the pair spearheaded the state’s building boom.
• The construction of the par-3 Strategic Fox, a new breed of executive courses created to help grow the game among juniors and women, helped Fox Hills win National Golf Course of the Year honors in 2002 from the National Golf Course Owners Association and the state’s course of the year in 2001 and 2002 from the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association.
• Fox Hills’ commitment to the environment earned the prestigious “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” by the International Audubon Program in 1996, becoming among the first 40 in America (and third in Michigan) to achieve this award. The Audubon status continues today with a review done every two years.

But what struck me during my first visit in years last week was its versatility. I've written about this before, but it was great to see the facility come to life before my own eyes. I saw the stereotypical country club types – guys with the logo shirts carrying big-headed drivers – enjoying the Golden Fox during an outing. I witnessed women and seniors tackling the easier, but no less fun, Strategic Fox and finishing all 18 holes in less than three hours. What a cool concept!

And then, on the 27 holes of the classic Fox with 18 holes that date to 1921, there were golfers of all shapes and abilities and attire. And that’s the ultimate storyline of Fox Hills. There’s something for everyone.

The junior program is thriving with 700 children taking advantage of the Strategic Fox and its separate clubhouse and driving range that encompasses the golf school, staffed by a number of excellent teachers. People like Brian Cairns, Jordan Young, Joal Harding, Top50JuniorTour founder Dan Thomas and Eastern Michigan University men’s golf coach Bruce Cunningham make it hum. Aznavorian says the junior program explodes once school gets out in June, so be sure to sign your future Phil Mickelson up early. Programs range from individual lessons to day and weeklong camps.

I’ve never played any of the holes on the Classic Fox, but the Golden Fox is a solid test. The signature hole (and most talked about) is the 396-yard 15th hole, featuring a blind green hidden behind a giant mound.

Playing the Strategic Fox can be fun for all ages. Envision a foursome of buddies reveling in a par-3 shootout for some cash or a family of four enjoying a day of bonding on the course without the stresses of high scores.

Architect Ray Hearn designed big greens, so beginners can experience that “rush of accomplishment” when they hit them in regulation. Seasoned players should hit every green on the front nine – the longest hole is 163 yards – but the course toughens up on the back with two 195-yard and two 171-yard shots.

Hearn says he gets satisfaction every time he sees pictures of the range of customers using his unique creation. “I’m not here to say it is the total answer (for growing the game), but it is part of the answer,” he says. “We get more requests for (building) these kind of facilities (than full courses).”

Monday, May 17, 2010

Boulder Pointe a tasty treat in metro Detroit

It’s been years since I’d tee it up at Boulder Pointe Golf Club & Banquet Center in Oxford.

And unfortunately, by getting older, I can’t always visualize golf courses hole by hole like I used to when I was a young buck with a memory as sharp as a tack.

I knew there were some solid holes at the 27-hole facility off of Telegraph Road 10 miles north of The Palace of Auburn Hills, but I just couldn’t get a grip on how much I liked it. I’d written stories in the past ranking the Conroy/Dewling design among the top 10 public courses in metro Detroit, but just how good is it? That’s what I set out to prove.

Last week’s round rekindled my love affair with the place. It plays firm and fast, just like I love. It has some sweeping terrain and some dynamic elevated tee shots, another favorite of mine. Several of the par-3s are down-right knee-knockers, another thumbs up from me. The water-laced the 197-yard third and the 141-yard fourth, both on the Peaks nine, come to mind.

The Peaks-Dunes combination provides the best 18 holes. The Peaks is my favorite with a unique mix of challenges. The first hole demands a blind wedge shot to a green protected by water in back. A peninsula green on the par-5 third juts out into the water. The short par-4 ninth provides an opportunity at birdie, provided you don’t choke on the wedge shot over a marsh pond like I did. The Dunes has some nice land, but the killer stretch of five par-4s over 400 yards in a row is too repetitive for me. The last of them, the 453-yard seventh, is one of the toughest holes in metro Detroit with a monumental carry over water to approach the green.

An A-list clubhouse completes the amenities of Boulder Pointe, tucked inside a huge residential subdivision. Nowhere on the course, though, did I feel crowded or intimidated about tight quarters. At the spring rate of $40-$50, playing Boulder Pointe is a steal.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Consider Traverse City's Great Wolf Lodge for a fun family golf vacation

Over the past decade, water parks have sprouted up all over Michigan. Even so, the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City continues to stand above the competition.

This ultra-cool indoor water park, one of a family scattered nationwide, isn’t known as a golfer’s haven. I’m here to argue otherwise.

It’s a no-brainer for a golf trip/family vacation, a perfect place for guilt-free golf. While you’re off playing a round at any of the area’s great courses, the family you left behind will hardly notice you’re gone. Great Wolf Lodge is a wonderland for children. Throw in a massage at the onsite Elements Spa or some downtime for your significant other to create a great getaway for all.

The lodge in Traverse City sits off a main drag near a Meijer store but its northern woods d├ęcor gives off the vibe of an out-of-the-way escape. You never have to leave to be entertained or fed (the food is high quality with menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner).

Many of the unique suites sleep a family of 4 to 8 people comfortably. The KidKamp suites my family of four stayed in recently featured a main room with a couch, bed, TV and fireplace. The “den” where the children slept was enclosed with a bunk bed, a third bed and another television so we didn’t have to fight over the remote. A kitchenette with a fridge, sink and microwave were convenient additions.

During the spring and fall -- when the weather is good enough for golf, but iffy for the beach -- the constant climate of 84 degrees at the indoor water park seems like a perfect way to spend a day.

You can get wet any way imaginable on the four-story Fort Mackenzie, but the most dramatic way is when the 1,000-gallon bucket on top the play structure dumps its load. The walk-in kiddie pool is perfect for toddlers with a slide and climbing playhouse on a smaller scale. The bigger pool offers leap pads and a giant snake to play on with a separate area for water basketball. The lazy river attracts younger children, while the more adventurous love the speedy waterslides.

The outdoor water park and putt-putt course with animatronics open between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Since he’s not much of a swimmer, my son probably liked the dryland activities the most, the arcade and an addictive game called Magiquest, an interactive scavenger hunt where players gather pixie dust and slay dragons. It’s great fun for the crowd ages 7-14.

At Christmas time, the “Snowland” festivities celebrate the holidays in style. It really snows three times a day inside the polar-themed lobby, thanks to snow-making machines hidden in the rafters. My two children loved that they could decorate Christmas cookies and send letters to Santa.

As for the golf, Traverse City is loaded with great courses … the three at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa are the headliners. The Bear is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Six more fab courses at A-Ga-Ming Resort and Shanty Creek Resorts are less than 45 minutes away.

Golf and goggles … it doesn’t get much better than that for a family that wants it all on vacation.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Hebert prepares for 2010 club pro national championship at eye-popping French Lick Resort in Indiana

Scott Hebert got his first look at the intimidating Dye course at French Lick Resort & Casino, the host of the 2010 PGA Professional National Championship. And the head professional from Grand Traverse Resort and Spa near Traverse City liked what he saw.

“All the Pete Dye stuff is tough,” he said, just moments after listening to Dye talk about his latest course at a recent media day for the tournament. “(But) I do better on modern courses. They fit my game better.”

Hebert, the six-time Michigan Open champion, says he didn’t get to play much golf over the winter, instead settling for banging balls out of the impressive winter practice facility at Grand Traverse Resort.

Even so, Hebert is among the defending champions expected to contend at the 43rd edition of the tournament set for June 27-30. Hebert won the PNC in 2008 and was a member of the PGA team that smothered its international competition from Great Britain and Ireland last fall in the PGA Cup, a Ryder Cup competition for club pros.

The PNC will feature one round on the resort’s Donald Ross course and one of the Dye course before moving strictly to the showcase Dye course on the weekend. Hebert believes it will be a challenge to walk the Dye course.

“It’s a good course for me. You can’t overpower it,” he said. “It’s similar to The Bear. There’s a premium on irons. I look forward to playing. I hope it’s playing fast and firm.”

The event serves as a coming-out party for the resort, which has undergone a massive $500 million renovation since 2005, spearheaded by the Cook Group Inc. of nearby Bloomington, Ind. The West Baden Springs Hotel, circa 1902, once again shines as “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” thanks to its awe-inspiring six-story atrium and ornate decor. Even Al Capone, once a regular guest, would be impressed at its opulence.

The nearby luxurious French Lick Springs Hotel, another historic building dating to the turn of the last century, now offers a monstrous 51,000-square-foot casino featuring 1,300 slots and 41 table games.

As grand as the hotels are, the golf is even better.

No golf resort in the country delivers such a range of playing experiences as French Lick. Purists drool over the restored par-70 Donald Ross course, built in 1917. Its terrain ambles to and fro with endless variety … dog legs left and right, short holes, par 4s longer than 460 yards, uphill approaches, downhill tee shots. There are virtually no forced carries, but crooked lies on hillsides challenge even the best of ball strikers. It will play 6,885 yards for the 312 club pros from 43 states who have qualified for the PNC.

Dye delivers the modern ying to Ross’s old-school yang. He took a rugged, almost mountainous, site that is one of the highest points in the state, offering expansive views 40 miles in either direction, and imposed his will to find a course on it. The terrain he carved is reminiscent of Whistling Straights, host of this year’s PGA Championship.

The master of visual deception, Dye peppered ribbon-thin fairways with danger … a lateral water hazard here, a waste bunker there. Or maybe it’s a falloff zone or set of mounds that suck your ball into oblivion.

He used every trick in his bag except his signature railroad ties. He molded “volcano” bunkers – sand hazards perched atop mounds -- along the fairway of the second hole. He added “church pews,” ala Oakmont Country Club, in the fairway waste bunker on the 18th hole. Three par-5s boomerang left around steep drop-offs filled with juicy rough. Almost every green seemingly rests on stilts, surrounded by shaved collection zones. He stretched the course to a mindboggling 8,102 yards, but it will play a mere 7,174 yards in the tournament.

Todd Smith, who won the 2009 Indiana PGA Championship at The Pete Dye Course with a 9-over-par 223 for 54 holes, calls the layout “really special.”

"Mr. Dye gives you a chance to play a hole with ample room in a fairway, but when it comes to making a score on a hole, you have to be precise,” said Smith, a 47-year-old PGA head professional at Rock Hollow Golf Club and a nine-time Indiana PGA Player of the Year. “I love to play his courses."

Even by Dye’s standards, this is diabolical golf at its over-the-top best. Dye, who lives near Indianapolis, admits to being nervous how it will be received by top club pros. It’s only been open slightly over a year. And at $350 a round, it’s not for everybody.

The 84-year-old architect shouldn’t fret too much about what a few club pros might think. This course should only enhance the legacy of his hall-of-fame career. A statue of Dye guards the entrance to the course and his picture is prominently featured on every tee marker.

“This golf course is always in the eye of the beholder,” Dye said. “You always worry how it will be received. The ambience is so dramatic. … I’ve never done anything like this before. We’ll see what happens (at the tournament), for better or worse.”