Sunday, September 4, 2011

Learn from the best -- Scott Hebert -- at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

I guess I picked the right time for a two-day golf school with Scott Hebert at his new Grand Traverse Resort & Spa golf academy.

It was the day after Hebert erased a two-shot deficit on the first hole of the final round of the Michigan PGA Professional Championship en route to his fifth title in six years at Eagle Eye Golf Course. GTR's head professional shot a final round 67 and handily won by five shots over Eric Dovre.

Dovre, the first and second round leader, faltered with a bogey on the first hole while Hebert was making birdie, his first of four in the a row to start the round.

“That was a fast horse to catch,” Dovre said. “Shell-shocked is not the right word, but he came out firing and I was kind of right there with him but I made two bad swings for back-to-back double bogies (on No. 5 and 6 to finish a seven-shot swing on the leaderboard). Right then knew I wasn’t playing for first. It was like watching a Tour event; fairways, greens, no mistakes. Really a pleasure to be out there and watch that.”

Dovre finished with a 74.

“I got off to a fast start for a change,” Hebert said. “I think that rattled Eric a bit. Those first four holes were the difference.”

Only five players broke par in the final round including Brian Cairns with a 71. He finished third. Hebert won $6,500 for his efforts.

I can't tell you much about my lesson with Hebert because there's a story brewing in a major magazine, but I can say the two-day session has changed my game forever. It was a great experience, one I can recommend for others.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jeff Lesson's Free Golf Day set for Aug. 30

I've known Jeff Lesson a while now, so I can speak from first-hand knowledge that he's a good dude.

He's proving it again with his third annual Free Day at the Links on Tuesday, August 30th, a “thank you” for those who have supported his Lesson On Golf radio program for many years.

"Our first two years were 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. "The First Tee does so much for these kids we are just thrilled to be a part of this."

A handful of top courses in southeast Michigan have signed on, agreeing to give any money raised to the First Tee of Southeast Michigan, which conducts programming at 12 locations across Metro Detroit. Each year, more than 1,000 youth participants have the opportunity to learn to play the game while learning leadership skills, life skills, and interpersonal communication skills. Since its inception in 1997, The First Tee has introduced the game of golf and its values to more than 2.9 million participants in 49 states.

Golfers must call the participating course to register. 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. Courses to commit so far include:
• Lyon Oaks in Wixom (248) 437-1848
• Tanglewood near South Lyon(248) 486-3355
• Moose Ridge in Green Oak TOwnship (248) 446-9030
• Majestic at Lake Walden near Hartland(810) 632-5235
• Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Lake Orion, the site of the 2012 Senior U.S. Open (248) 693-8049

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," Woodcox said.
For more information, visit

Friday, August 26, 2011

Trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula a real treat

One of my pet peeves about the job of golf writer is this:

Probably 75 percent of the courses I play, I'll only get to see once in my life. First impressions are no way to critique a course, but that's what my job requires ... instant analysis of a layout for my stories.

Courses don't always get a fair shake that way. I just returned from a week-long tour of the courses in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It was a reprise of a journey I first experienced in 2008, seeing the Greywalls course at Marquette Country Club, TimberStone, Wild Bluff at the Bay Mills Casino and Sweetgrass at the Island Resort & Casino.

During that first trip, I was unimpressed with Bay Mills and TimberStone and fell in love with Greywalls. (Since I only drove Sweetgrass in a cart, I decided to reserve judgement until I played it).

I'm happy to report that I'm now a bigger fan of U.P. golf than ever. TimberStone deserves a spot among the top 5 or 6 public courses in the state, Wild Bluff is wildly under appreciated, Greywalls moves down a bit in my estimation but still ranks among the state's top 12 public courses, and Sweetgrass ranks among Michigan's best in terms of playability, while still remaining strategic and demanding. My first visit to Drummond Island to play 'The Rock' - coupled with an earlier visit this summer to Mackinac Island -- proved to me that the U.P. is a legit golf destination that deserves more love from us downstaters.

The Island Resort & Casino in Harris offers one of the best golf packages in the state. The "perfect foursome" allows for two nights at the casino and one round at TimberStone (pictured above), Sweetgrass and Greywalls for roughly $250. That's a steal for three of the top 25 public courses in the state. The fall color season is a great time to visit the U.P. Give it some thought. Golfers will be pleasantly surprised.

You're probably wondering why Greywalls dropped a bit in my estimation. As one of my golf writing colleagues pointed out, it might not be a course I'd want to play every day. It's a scenic setting unique to the Midwest, but there are some holes that were overshaped. The course plays overly tough. As long as you check the ego at the first tee, you'll have a great round.

Friday, August 12, 2011

GAM Golf Days winding down

The best part of joining the Golf Association of Michigan isn't the handicap service. It's the access to all of Michigan's private courses with the GAM Golf Days series.

This unique series of one-day events allows for players of all abilities to take part in a GAM event at some of the state’s most well-known clubs. For $60, players can have a cart, hit the range, play golf and can win prizes during the event.

For more information visit the Golf Days page or email Below is a list of remaining events:

* August 22nd - Gull Lake Country Club - Scheduled Shotgun Start: 12:30 p.m.
Gull Lake in Richland near Kalamazoo hosted the 2011 GAM Women's Championship.

* August 23rd - Atlas Valley Country Club - Scheduled Shotgun Start: 1:00 p.m.
A new stop on the GAM Golf Days schedule for 2011, Atlas Valley is one of the Flint area's oldest clubs.

* August 29th - Muskegon Country Club - Scheduled Shotgun Start: 1:00 p.m.
This Donald Ross design will host the 2013 Michigan Amateur.

* September 6th - Eagle Eye Golf Club - Scheduled Shotgun Start: 9:00 a.m.
One of Michigan's finest facilities returns to the Golf Days schedule after a successful go around in 2010. Beware the island green at No. 17.

* September 26th - Edgewood Country Club - Scheduled Shotgun Start: 8:30 a.m.
Edgewood in Commerce Township is a familiar stop for many GAM tournament players.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cairns, Olsen gear up for PGA Championship in Atlanta

Around these parts, he's known as 3-1-3.

That's the way Dan Olsen won the 1992 Boyne Tournament of Champions ... with a birdie-ace-birdie finish.

Olsen, 44, a 1985 high school grad from East Lansing, is at it again. The assistant pro at Walnut Hills Country Club in East Lansing qualified to play in the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club next week after finishing in the top 20 of the PGA Club Pro National Championship at Hershey Country Club in Hershey, Pa. He fired a final round 75, but was two under par for 72 holes, which included a third round 67. This is Olsen's 35th career event with the big boys of the PGA Tour. He's won $137,831.80 in that span, all in 2004, his lone full season.

He's not the only local playing. I'm proud to report one of my Facebook friends will tee it up as well ... Brian Cairns of Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center in Plymouth. Cairns is an excellent instruction, but his game rounded into form this summer to quality for his first major championship, finishing 11th at the PNC.

Go guys go!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Houtteman wins $10,000 at Boyne's Tournament of Champions

Tournament season in Michigan hit its zenith, as several big events proclaimed winners.

Turns out, Scott Hebert, a six-time Michigan Open champ, isn't the only stud teaching out of the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme.

Lee Houtteman of Traverse City won the Boyne Tournament of Champions on the Alpine course with a birdie on the first playoff hole. The 50-year old teaching professional finished regulation at 5-under par along with Andrew Ruthkoski and Jeff Cuzzort in the 54-hole event at Boyne Mountain Resort.

Houtteman entered the final round tied for third and one shot behind leaders Cuzzort and Korey Mahoney. Mahoney struggled at the finish with bogeys on two of his last 4 holes while Houtteman birdied four of his last seven. Cuzzort birdied the last hole in regulation to earn his spot in the playoff.

All three players laid up on the par-5 18th hole. Houtteman stuck a gap wedge to four inches for an easy tap in birdie, while Cuzzort and Ruthkoski both missed their birdie putts.

“I’ve won pro-ams and chapter events,” Houtteman said after receiving the $10,000 winner’s check. “But this is special. Unbelievable. There are great players in this tournament. Heck, just last week I saw J.R. Roth playing on TV with Hale Irwin at the U.S. Senior Open. I’m thinking I have no chance.”

Mahoney finished with a final round 71 and tied for fourth with Hebert, a former champion.

The Tournament of Champions is a unique 54-hole event that pits men, women, juniors, seniors, professionals and amateurs against each other. They all have won a Michigan major golf tournament. The equalizer for the diverse field are three sets of tees on Boyne Mountain’s Alpine Course. The forward tees play to 5,905 yards and are used by all women and men age 70+. The middle tees measure to 6,562 yards and are played by men 50+ and any junior men with high school eligibility remaining. The back tees are used by all men 49 and under and measure 6,938 yards.

This is the first year Houtteman played from the middle tees. He admits “it helps me on at least 3-holes and is probably good for a couple of strokes per round.”

Not to be overlooked, Christine Meier, a Rochester Hills resident who plays at Michigan State University, won the 95th Michigan Women’s Amateur at Prestwick Village Golf Club by defeating Meagan Bauer, 1 up.

The victory was sweet, considering it came over a current University of Michigan player. “I guess the third time is a charm,” said Meier who was the runner-up last year and was ousted in the semi-finals the year before.

Bauer played near flawless golf on the back nine, but a couple of bogeys on the front hurt her in the long run.

“I played as well as I could have on the back,” said Bauer. “Christine is very consistent, that is what makes her tough to play against. You have to make birdies if you’re going to have a chance at beating her because she is going to make her pars.”

This month, you'll see fewer and fewer events as the high-school kids gear up for fall sports.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tournament of Champions returns to Boyne for 20th annual tournament Aug. 1-3

The Tournament of Champions' unique format has provided for some interesting dynamics in recent years.

Last year at Boyne Mountain Resort's Alpine course, a 15-year-old amateur, Hentry Do of Ann Arbor, almost won the whole thing. A female, Alison Fouch, an LPGA Tour player from Michigan State University, was in the final group.

How did these two almost beat eventual champion Andy Matthews, a talented mini-tour player from Ada? Matthews, 31, won by overcoming a four-stroke lead over the last three holes to outlast Do.

The great equalizer is the participants compete at different tees. This unique 54-hole event pits men, women, juniors, seniors, professionals and amateurs against each other. To be invited, you have to win a Michigan major golf tournament. The 20th version of the tournament is set for Aug. 1-3 in Boyne Falls.

Here's the breakdown of the tees: The forward tees play to 5,905 yards and are used by men ages 70+ and all women. The middle tees measure to 6,562 yards and are played by men 50+ and any junior men with high school eligibility remaining. The back tees are used by all men ages 49 and under and measure 6,938 yards.

“It’s hard to believe this is our 20th year,” said Tournament Co-Founder Stephen Kircher.

Kevin Helm, the current Michigan PGA Executive Director marveled, “Twenty years... what an example of how committed Boyne Mountain and the Kircher family are to promoting tournament golf and all that beautiful Northern Michigan has to offer. We are truly thankful as they welcome us for the 20th year."

Seven former winners are in the field: Dan Olsen (1992), Mike Erickson (1993), J.R. Roth (1995, 1996, 1999, 2008), Tom Harding (1997), John Dal Corobbo (1998), Scott Hebert (2009) and Matthews.

There are also a number of family connections led by Peter Green and his daughter Suzy Green-Roebuck. Siblings Ryan and Natalie Brehm are playing, as are Steve and Jeff Cuzzort, Dave and Dan Ellis, John and Dave Nolan and Jerry and Kyle Roman. Two fathers and sons are also in the mix: Frank McAuliffe and Frank IV along with Nick and Jody Berklich.

Other notables in the field are freshly crowned Michigan Open Champion Randy Hutchison. There is a $55,000 purse and the champion receives a green jacket and honorary lifetime Country Club of Boyne membership. The top 70-players and ties will make the 36-hole cut.

Live scoring can be found at A special thanks to Tim Hygh for much of the information in this post.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Michigan golf fans should keep an eye on the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness in Toledo this week

The 2011 U.S. Senior Open has wide-ranging implications for Michigan golf fans.

First and foremost, it's just across the state line at historic Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. Metro Detroit golf fans should have no problem making the short journey to watch the tournament, set for July 28-31. You can bet dozens of representatives from the Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion will make the trip as well.

The Old course at Indianwood will host the 2012 U.S. Senior Open. Tournament committee members and course representatives can learn a lot from watching how a championship is run behind the scenes.

Inverness, a former U.S. Open site, is a historic place. Donald Ross designed Inverness, which originally opened in 1903. Ross finished his design of the current 18-hole layout in 1918. George and Tom Fazio (1978) and Arthur Hills (1999) supervised recent revisions to the course. The club will be set up at 7,143 yards with a unique par of 37-34–71.

To my knowledge, there is one player with local ties. Former Eastern Michigan University player Bob Proben will tee it up. Proben, who played at EMU from 1974-76, qualifed by shooting a 69 to win medalist honors at a sectional tournament qualifier, July 1, in Dunedin, Fla. Proben, the Michigan Open champ in 1990, was a first-team All-Mid-American Conference player as a freshman in 1974. Two of his brothers, Tom and Ray, also played for the then-Hurons. Tom won the 2010 Re/MAX World Long Drive Championship in the Grand Champions division with a 366-yard drive.

Proben was a part-time PGA Tour player from 1979-92, qualifying for the 1985 and 1989 U.S. Opens. His best tour finish on Tour was a tie for 15th at the 1988 Independent Insurance Agen Open and at the 1988 Bank of Boston Classic.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Forest Dunes still a magical place

The Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon is celebrating an awkward 10th anniversary this summer.

Technically, 2011 should be its 12th anniversary, but after the 7,141-yard course was designed by Tom Weiskopf in 1999, it was shuttered the entire 2000 season before being revived to finally open in 2001.

The financial challenges that hindered the club from the start are still there (it is for sale), but there's no doubting this club's star power. It is one of the most dramatic, thought-provoking, soul-stirring layouts anywhere, ranking 20th on Golf Digest's list of top 100 public courses. The 22,000-square-foot timber clubhouse and 20-acre practice area are just as good. And the professionalism brought by Troon Golf, the management company, further enhances the experience.

And this side of Oakland Hills Country Club, there might not be another club in Michigan more pristine than Forest Dunes. Superintendent Jim Bluck is one of the best. His attention to detail -- such as handwatering fairways and greens -- had the course looking like a Miss America candidate when I played it earlier this week. The greens were running a cool 12 on the stimpmeter. Find me another club, public or private, in the state sporting those green speeds in this heat. There is only one other course in the state with A-4 bentgrass greens.

Weiskopf's masterpiece doesn't have a weakness. There is infinite variety. Seemingly every shot has a hero line that comes with a price if it isn't executed. The front nine cuts through northern woods with the back nine opening to sandy waste areas and meadows.

I hate course reviews that list hole by hole, but to do justice to Forest Dunes, I'll need to point out all the strong candidates to be the signature hole. There are more than half a dozen.

* The par-5 fifth, called "Mason Trail," is the longest hole on the course at 602 yards and requires two precise shots just to stay in position to hit the green for a third.
* The 375-yard sixth hole -- "Gamble" -- showcases Weiskopf's expertise for risk-reward. Playing safely up the left side of the split fairway sets up a blind approach that is extremely difficult. The other choice is to bomb a drive 200 yards from the blue tees over a bunker, while avoiding a tree in the middle of the split fairway, for an easier approach. I chose the latter and was rewarded with birdie.
* Two trees -- hence the name "goalpost" -- flank each side of the seventh green. If you're out of position like I was on this 531-yard par 5, you must decide between going over or under these obstacles to hit the green.
* The fairway of the par-4 eighth, "Forest Edge" doglegs hard right to reveal a green fronted by a pond and the striking setting near the lake and clubhouse. Everything from the fairway and green funnels to the water, so be very careful here.
* The 203-yard ninth (seen below) is the most scenic on the course. Players hit over the lake to a green in the shadow of the clubhouse.
* Although the 10th is another hole with a split fairway, I love the 12th, a sweeping 397-yard par 4 among the trees that bends left off the tee. A pond guards the front right portion of the green.
* The 13th is short at 373 yards, but the green is the toughest on the course with severe falloff zones on the right side. The hole name, "Twins", comes from the two trees along the fairway that can block the approach.
* Another feature worth pointing out, the sunken green at the end of the par-5 558-yard 15th hole, is superb, but the course's crescendo comes at No. 17, a wickedly fun drivable par 4. Or is it? I've played Forest Dunes a handful of times and never seen anybody do it. The tee shot is so intimidating with a massive waste bunker up the entire left side that even a layup shot is unnerving. The green bleeds from right to left, so any shot coming from the fairway on the right to the pin on the right has almost no chance of sticking close. I was lucky enough to hit the fairway along the proper line with a 7 wood and make birdie to close out my match.

The par-5 18th is very strong as well. The 19th hole -- no, not the bar -- provides one more opportunity to settle all bets. This "bye hole" plays roughly 100 yards over a pond to a large, canted green with a bunker in the middle.

Those who stay for dinner are rewarded with a fine menu and service.

There are drawbacks to coming to Forest Dunes -- the insects can be overbearing, the price tag isn't cheap ($130-$155) and the course is off the beaten path in the middle of the Huron National Forest.

But to those who love golf, this is one of the handful of rounds in Michigan that will stick with you a lifetime. It's that good.

Stay-and-play packages are available for six homes on property. For more, visit

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hutchison wins Michigan Open; Oakland Hills secures 2016 U.S. Amateur

There's plenty of tournament news going on in Michigan in the heat of summer.

The state's premier event -- The Michigan Open -- ended July 14 when Randy Hutchison, a 24-year-old mini-tour professional from Traverse City, birdied the final hole, the 18th at The Orchards Golf Club, to beat Matt Thompson.

But the biggest news comes from the state's premier tournament venue. Golfweek just reported that Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township will host the 2016 U.S. Amateur. Not interested in amateur golf, you say? This has wide-range implications. Getting an Am is usually just a stepping stone to securing a U.S. Open. The U.S. Open is scheduled through 2019, giving Oakland Hills an opportunity to host in 2020.

Oakland Hills' South course has hosted six U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships, one Ryder Cup and one previous U.S. Amateur, won by Ricky Barnes in 2002.

With Michigan suffering a PGA Tour drought since the 2009 Buick Open left town, the state will surely welcome back the world's best golfers with open arms.

As for the Michigan Open, it was a breakthrough win for Hutchison.

“I knew I had to make a birdie, and I didn't expect him to make a bogey,” Hutchison said of the final hole drama. “My last birdie had been on the sixth hole, so I was due for one.”

Hutchison hit a sand wedge shot to just two feet for the final birdie, while Thompson missed the green with a 7-iron shot, just missed making a chip shot from left of the green and finally missed a seven-foot par-saving putt. Hutchison then knocked his final short putt in for the win and fist-pump celebration. “It reminded me of a putt I made at a qualifier to get in a Buick Open (2009),” he said. “I had good thoughts and just knocked it in.”

Hutchison, a former Michigan State golfer, won $10,000 and heads back to the NGA Hooters Tour. His final birdie gave him a 2-under-par 70 for a 16-under-par 272 total. Thompson, a Battle Creek resident who will be a senior on the University of Michigan golf team in the fall, finished at 273 with a 68.

Brian Ottenweller, a former University of Michigan Michigan player now on the mini-tour circuit, finished at 275 and in third place with a 67. Muskegon pro Andy Ruthkoski, the 2007 Open champion, shot 70 for 279 and fourth place, and Ann Arbor amateur Martin Jeppesen, an Eastern Michigan University golfer, shot 66 for 280 and fifth place. Sixth place went to mini-tour pro Ryan Lenahan of Grosse Pointe Shores, who shot a course-record 63 for 281. PGA Tour star Mike Weir was the previous record-holder at 65.

Hutchison was feeling great about his win.

“It's always great to play in the Michigan Open, and to get my first professional win in this tournament is great,” he said. “Winning with my parents here – it's just great, exactly the way you want it.”

Thompson, who was also second in the 2009 Michigan Open, missed at being the first amateur to win a state Open since 1975.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer in full swing in Michigan

With July 4th having been celebrated, we are in the heat of the summer golf season in Michigan. The next two months will make or break the bottom lines of many area golf clubs. Let's hope the weather holds up for a fine summer.

Here's a few notes to keep up on the Michigan golf scene:

1, Greg Johnson of the Grand Rapids Press beat me to the punch in writing about the new men's golf coaches at Michigan (Chris Witten) and Michigan State University (Casey Lubahn). I'll let him tell the story how these two Grand Rapids high school standouts are good friends but still rivals. See his story here.

2, With the Michigan Open just around the corner, I got a chance to check out The Orchards, the Washington Township course that hosted the 2002 U.S. Publix Championship. This is the first of back-to-back Michigan Opens for the Robert Trenton Jones Jr. course that opened in 1993. The track should be a fine test for the state's top pros July 11-14. When I played the course in June, it was already in tournament shape. The greens roll true. Above is a picture of the pond guarding the 18th green. Orchards head professional Jeff Stalcup will have his hands full, not only helping run the tournament but he'll be playing as well. "I don't have any expectations," he said when asked about his chances of playing well.

3, For players looking for some competitive action, a new event, the Michigan Pro-Am at Shanty Creek, should get the juices flowing.
The Golf Connection's first stateside Destination Pro-Am will be held September 7-11. This premier pro-am event will showcase the beauty and appeal of northern Michigan for professionals and amateurs from the United States and Canada. Entries are now open at
“The Michigan Pro-Am and Shanty Creek Resorts will allow us to provide our attendees with a destination golf experience unlike anything we currently offer in the Caribbean,” says Tom Jaronski, Tournament Director and President of The Golf Connection. “Our September event dates are perfect for U.S. teams from the Sun Belt looking to escape the heat of a long summer, and a great way for Canadian clubs north of the border to extend their tournament season.”
The 54-hole event will be contested over Shanty Creek Resorts’ The Legend, designed by Arnold Palmer, the Tom Weiskopf-designed Cedar River Golf Club, and Schuss Mountain Golf Club.
All players and guests will enjoy the hospitality and northern charm that Shanty Creek Resorts offers including the newly renovated Lakeview Resort and Conference Center at Summit Village, which overlooks Lake Bellaire and northern Michigan’s beautiful landscape.
Tournament packages, which start at $1,749 per person (double occupancy) if booked by August 1, include four-nights lodging, all meals, three tournament rounds plus additional unlimited golf, evening dinner receptions with hosted beer and wine, tournament favors and more! Visit for more details.
“We are very excited to showcase Shanty Creek Resorts to club professionals and amateurs from around the country”, said Chris Hale, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Shanty Creek. “Our location in northern Michigan and the quality of championship golf courses make Shanty Creek a natural fit for the Michigan Pro-Am and to showcase northern Michigan as one of the top golfing destinations in the country.”
With the support of the Michigan PGA Section, golfers in need of a Club Professional will be paired up with an in-state PGA Club Professionals. The Golf Connection LLC welcomes entries from individual players and teams without host professional, providing all amateur players meet the entry requirements outlined on the tournament website.
"We welcome PGA Professionals from Michigan and across the country to enter a team and participate in this exciting event,” said Kevin Helm, Executive Director for the Michigan PGA. “We will also arrange for any of our local Michigan PGA Professionals to play with groups that do not have a host Professional. Our Section Members are proud of what our state has to offer and look forward to the opportunity to host and participate with amateur players coming to experience golf in northern Michigan."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Former Spartan cashes in at Michigan Women's Open, Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass

It's been a great week for women's professional golf in Michigan.

Hopefully these two back-to-back events -- last week's $100,000 Island Resort Championship presented by Delta County Chamber of Commerce in the Upper Penninsula June 24-26, followed by the Michigan PGA Women's Open at Crystal Mountain Resort June 27-29 -- can continue to piggy-back off one another to attract more top players.

Nobody took better advantage of the two tournaments in such close proximity as former Michigan State University star Laura Kueny of Whitehall. The former Big Ten Player of the year shot a final round 69 to win the Michigan PGA Women’s Open, just days after finishing in seventh at the Island Resort Championship.

“It was another win for the Spartans and there’s no other place I’d like to get my first win than Michigan,” she said after completing rounds of 71-71-69 (211) on Crystal Mountain's wonderful Mountain Ridge course.

Kueny was tied with Ashley Tait of Littleton, Colo., and Jean Bartholomew of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., going into the final round. But her “short game came through” while Bartholomew and Tait were slow out of the gate. Bartholomew’s first tee ball shot into the woods resulting in a double bogey.

Kueny's win at the Michigan PGA Women’s Open earned $5,500. She will continue to play on the Futures Tour and enter LPGA Q-school in the Fall. Kueny shot 74-68-73 for a 215 total to earn $2,968 at Sweetgrass.

Tait has also had two good weeks. She won more money for finishing second at the Michigan Open ($4,400) than she did winning the Texas Women’s Open the week prior ($4,300). Maybe more aspiring LPGA Tour players will notice that the Michigan Women's Open is only a notch below a Futures Tour event and remains one of the country's top state-wide events. Unfortunately, only 63 players participated in the Michigan Women's Open, coming from from 11 states and Brazil. Amazingly, there were more amateurs (38) than pros (25) in the field.

As for the Futures Tour event, the first in Michigan since 2005, it was a solid success, especially for its new venue, the Sweetgrass course at Island Resort & Casino in Harris near Escanaba.

Teenager Stephanie Kim earned her first professional victory in wire-to-wire fashion.
The 2011 LPGA and LPGA Futures Tour rookie carded rounds of 67-72-70 to win by two shots at 7-under 209, securing the trophy, a cardbook check for $15,400, and a handmade Native-American blanket. Kim edged runner-up Jane Rah (70) of Torrance, Calif., who finished at 5-under 211, and Hanna Kang (72) of Seoul, South Korea, who finished third at 4-under 212.

“It wasn’t as hard leading the pack as it was hitting the fairway today,” said Kim, 19, of Bayside, N.Y., who hit only nine fairways in regulation in the final round. “I was scraping it around, but making a lot of putts. When my swing fell apart, I guess I just dug deep.”

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Willie Mack III wins historic Michigan Amateur

It was a historic result for a historic event on a historic venue.

All the stars aligned for the 100th Michigan Amateur at The Heather course at Boyne Highlands Resort.

From the first tee shot of the final round it was Willie Mack III’s day. With precision drives and savvy putts Mack defeated defending champion and hometown favorite Joey Garber (Petoskey/University of Michigan) 4 & 3 to become the first African American to win the Michigan Amateur title.

“I didn’t really think about this history aspect of it when I was out there,” said Mack, 22, who plans to turn professional later this year. “I just wanted to come out and play and see how far I could get in the tournament. But to be the first African American to win in the 100th year of the tournament is really special.”

Mack won his semi-final over Matt Thompson (Battle Creek/University of Michigan) 1-up in a match where Mack was 5-up at the turn. He hit some errant shots on the back nine which caused him to consult his swing coach Bill Baldwin between the semi-final and final matches. Baldwin, who is the PGA professional at The Jewel of Grand Blanc, knew just what Mack needed to help him soar in the final round.

“I called Bill and he gave me a little drill and I went out on the range and did it before the final and it worked,” said Mack. “I told myself to just keep grinding and to take it one shot at a time and it worked out.”

Mack has been on a tear recently. Mack, a former Flint Central High School and Grand Blanc High School golfer who played at Bethune-Cookman University, has won four college tournaments and the West Michigan Amateur this season.

Garber also defeated his semi-final opponent, Eric Lilleboe (Okemos) 1-up but in the final round sprayed some tee shots into the woods and rough and left himself with some long and difficult putts. Garber was clearly frustrated with his play, particularly after the turn, and was disappointed not to play better in front of the large gallery that was, for the most part, rooting for him.

“I know how good Willie is but I also know how good I am and I didn’t play nearly as well as I can today,” said Garber, 19. “It’s no fun to lose like this but Willie beat me and he played well so there just isn’t much to say about it.”

Mack had birdies on 10 and 11 which really turned the match in his favor. Although he played his practice round at Boyne Highlands Resort – The Heather with Garber, he had no qualms about going for the kill in the final match against his fellow golfer.

“We’re all friends but you have to keep grinding and beat them down,” said Mack. “I know Joey was getting mad out there, but I just got hold of the par 5s today and that really made the difference.”

The diminutive Mack stands 5-foot-6 and weighs just 148 pounds, but he packs a punch with his driver. He averages between 295 and 300 yards with it and hit his 5-wood 265 yards on the back nine in the final.

“I’m just real happy,” said Mack, who expressed a sense of pride in coming from the Flint Junior Golf program and adding to a rich tradition of golf in the Flint area. “It’s been a long week and I can’t wai
t to get home to Flint and share this with everyone there.”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Two University of Michigan golfers finish 1-2 in stroke play at Michigan Amateur

HARBOR SPRINGS – University of Michigan golfer Matt Thompson (Battle Creek) edged teammate and defending champion Joey Garber (Petoskey) for medalist honors at the 100th Michigan Amateur.

Thompson shot 71-69—140 while Garber was just one stroke behind him with 71-70 – 141 on The Heather course at Boyne Highlands Resort.

Thompson has played in the Michigan Amateur for the past three years and lost in the final to Tom Werkmeister (Kentwood) at Spring Meadows in 2009. At the start of the tournament, Thompson’s goal was just to make it to match play but after shooting a one-under-par 71 in the first round of stroke play he raised the bar.

“After seeing what I shot in the first round I had to set a different goal and keep myself motivated,” said Thompson after his round on Wednesday. “So I went out today with the goal of being the medalist. I was one over at the turn but I made a couple of long putts on the back nine which really helped me.”

Presentation of the trophy was delayed until Thursday morning due to a long rain delay on Wednesday that left nine golfers having to finish their rounds. Thompson is a psychology major at U-M but said all of his knowledge didn’t really help him on the links at Boyne Highlands Resort – The Heather this week.

“I didn’t really have a class for golf psychology,” quipped Thompson. “Hopefully I can use something I’ve learned this week.”

Thompson acknowledges there is much golf to be played this week but admits it is a great feeling to have won medalist honors for stroke play.

“Hopefully this isn’t a situation like the President’s Trophy in hockey,” said Thompson. “It was a good feeling to achieve my goal. I ran into Joey (Garber) last night and he said he missed a short putt on nine that put him at 70, one stroke behind me. When I heard that, I thought I might have won.”

There was a playoff between eight players at 154 who battled for the last six spots in the field of 64 for match play. Nathan Clark (Charlotte) Brian Donohoe (Rochester Hills), Matt Johnson (Lansing) Lucas Trierweller (Plainwell), Lyle Wolberg (Huntington Woods), and Bill Zylstra (Dearborn Heights) all advanced to match play.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gary McCord's antics kicks off the 100th Michigan Amateur at Boyne Highlands Resort

When it comes to first-class golf organizations in Michigan, the Golf Association of Michigan and Boyne USA Resorts come immediately to mind.
Putting the two together is pure magic.

Today kicked off the 100th edition of The Michigan Amateur at The Heather course at Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs. This is a special week for the GAM. And Boyne, Michigan’s largest course operator, rolled out the red carpet for the affair. Monday was a great day for all to kick off the week.

Gary McCord, the sharp-tongued CBS announcer, did a clinic in the afternoon and was the special guest speaker at a spectacular Champions Dinner later that evening. While players were preparing with practice rounds on The Heather, a special outing was held on the Arthur Hills course. I hadn’t played the Hills in at least 3-4 years, so I couldn’t remember how good of a course it really was. It’s as fun as any in northern Michigan.

The green surrounds are tricky. Some are shaved. Others are carpeted with thick rough. Most greens are table-top, elevated plateaus that are hard to hit. The elevated 13th tee – which crashes downhill – might be the most scenic in the state. Check it out below.

True to form, McCord did more talking than hitting shots at his clinic after golf. He dove into a lot of heavy swing theory without taking too many swings himself. McCord – more famous for his mouth and his mustache than his game – went 22 years on the PGA Tour without a single win. Most people know him more as the announcer who was booted from The Masters for life than his handful of Champions Tour wins. He knows where his bread is buttered.

After the golf clinic, McCord and defending champion Joey Garber, a Petoskey High product fresh off an NCAA appearance with the University of Michigan golf team, held an intimate press conference. Garber mentioned that he's hitting his irons better than ever and doesn't feel pressure to defend. He's happy to be able to play in front of so many family and friends this week.

Then McCord held court on all topics, ranging from Rory McIlroy’s historic U.S. Open win to Tiger’s troubles. McCord wouldn’t touch the subject of Tiger too indepth because he repeatedly noted that “Tiger is keeping track” of all those who criticize or doubt him.

As only Boyne can, the Champions Dinner was a classy reception of several hundred people. Everybody was dressed up in jackets, and ties and the food was excellent. WJR’s Steve Courtney was a riot as the emcee. As soon as he got up on stage, he pulled out his wireless phone and said “Did anybody just get a text from former Senator Weiner?’

The gloves were off at that point. After guests met the past champions in attendance and had dinner, McCord knocked them dead with his tales of the “muni” where he grew up in southern California. His risqué stories of illegal aliens, uzis, bookies, gambling, a stay in jail and general debauchery with his friends named “Fairway Louie” and “20/20” (a blind guy) were off the hook. He ended the night with a story that he said “couldn’t leave the room.” I won’t break the code of brotherhood McCord made us swear by, but it involves David Feherty and ashes. You can take it from there.

Today the tournament kicked off with a ceremony that included Michigan Am. Legends Bud Stevens, Glenn Johnson and Peter Green this morning. After two days of stroke play, the tournament turns to match play to decide the champion on Saturday (weather permitting). Whatever happens this week on the course (see the iconic 18th hole below), it is sure to be a special one for the players and fans who attend. Another celebration like this probably won’t be held for another century.

To follow the action, visit, or to take a bite out of The Heather yourself after the tournament, check out

Monday, June 13, 2011

First Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass on tap

For the first time since 2005, the Futures Tour will visit Michigan. The Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass is set for June 24-26 at Sweetgrass Golf Club in Harris in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

It's also the first major pro golf championship in the U.P. since the Canadian Tour's Bay Mills Open ended in 2004. Solid crowds are expected to attend. Tickets are $10 for all three days.

It's too bad Futures Tour events don't get any TV coverage because for many Michigan golf fans it will be their first look at the Sweetgrass course, designed by Paul Albanese of Plymouth.

Here are some story lines to watch:

* A number of professional players with Michigan ties will be in the field, including: SHASTA AVERYHARDT of Flint; LAURA BAVAIRD (Western Michigan University) of Grosse Ile; LAURA KUENY (Michigan State University) of Whitehall; ALISON MEYER (Ferris State University) of Duluth, Minn.; rookie AIMEE NEFF (Michigan State) of Carmel, Ind.; and ELISE SWARTOUT (Western Michigan) of Ann Arbor. AVERYHARDT became only the fourth African-American in the history of the LPGA Tour by qualifing through the LPGA’s annual “Q-School” last December. She has competed on both tours throughout the 2011 season.

* Continuing with the minority theme, Native American Cheryl Mitchell of Strongville, Ohio, was invited as a local exemption. Mitchell, 32, a mother of two, turned professional in 2004 after winning the 2003 Ontario Women’s Amateur Championship. She is a member of the CN Canadian Women’s Tour. As a college player at Kent State University, she was twice named to the All-MAC Conference First Team. She also was named to the Mid-Continent Conference First Team twice while attending Michigan’s Oakland University for graduate studies. Mitchell represents the Potawatomi Nation, which owns Sweetgrass Golf Club and the Island Resort & Casino.

* The second local exemption, awarded to a local amateur, went to Marquette Senior High School player Carley Saint-Onge. The three-time defending Michigan High School Athletic Association Upper Peninsula Division I medalist will play at Michigan State University this fall.

4. Four tournament winners from the current 2011 LPGA Futures Tour will play: KATHLEEN EKEY of Sharon Township, Ohio, winner of last week’s Ladies Titan Tire Challenge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; LISA FERRERO of Lodi, Calif., winner of the Symetra Classic in San Antonio, Texas; TZU-CHI LIN of Taichung, Taiwan, winner of the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic in Winter Haven, Fla., and RYANN O’TOOLE of San Clemente, Calif., winner of the Santorini Riviera Nayarit Classic in Mexico. O’Toole is a three-time tournament winner on the LPGA Futures Tour and a former contestant on the Golf Channel’s “Big Break” show. She is also a 2011 LPGA rookie and plays on both tours. Eight of the top-10 money winners on the current 2011 money list will be in the field.

* Two "Big Break" winners will be in the field. Model and professional golfer BLAIR O’NEAL of Tempe, Ariz., also will be in the field. O’Neal, who won the Golf Channel’s “Big Break Dominican Republic” last fall in a field of men and women professionals, was featured in Sports Illustrated’s annual 2011 “swim suit issue” in a full-page ad for Cobra Golf. O’Neal played collegiately at Arizona State University. CARLING COFFING of Middletown, Ohio, won last year’s “Big Break Sandals Resorts” show.

For more, visit

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Two big-name teachers join the Dave Kendall Academy at Miles of Golf

You could say the teaching staff at Miles of Golf's Dave Kendall Academy in Ypsilanti Township got older with the addition of Frank McAuliffe and Jack Seltzer.

But the reality is the staff got wiser ... and more accomplished ... within the past six months.

I've worked with McAuliffe over the years as a sports writer while he was coach of the successful Dexter High School team and the head professional at Ann Arbor Country Club, so it was great to finally get a chance to catch up with him face to face about golf and life earlier this spring.

McAuliffe, the 2010 Golf Professional of the Year, knows his stuff. He's also transitioning into a new role as the first-ever men’s and women’s golf coach for Marygrove College in Detroit. If you recall, Marygrove has a new short-game facility designed by Tom Doak and his staff.

When Kendall walked by during my short lesson with McAuliffe, he didn't hesistate to praise his friend, calling him a "legend." McAuliffe still hits the ball as far as ever, and is a threat to win any senior tournament in Michigan. His son, Frank, just capped an outstanding career at Oakland University.

"Having someone of Frank's stature and experience be a part of Kendall Academy is a huge plus for all involved and most especially for area golfers," said Kendall, a two-time Michigan PGA Teacher of the Year.

I've never met Seltzer, a Flint native, but he certainly has a glowing resume. He is a past Michigan Open, Michigan PGA and Michigan PGA Match Play champion. Seltzer and his wife Pam moved back from Florida, where he's been working since 2005 as the general manager and head PGA golf professional at Bay Dunes in Panama City. Ann Arbor-area golfers might recognize the name. Jack's son, John, is the head professional at the Polo Fields Golf and Country Club.

“Because of his outstanding playing record, Jack’s teaching expertise isn’t always talked about,” said Kendall. “But Jack is one of the best teachers around, with a sharp eye and keen knowledge of the game. It’s no surprise to me that Jack has worked with 38 high school players who earned All-State honors.”

This staff might be the deepest, most talented ever assembled at the Kendall Academy, considering that Paul Haase and Kendall himself -- not to mention Scott Hayes and Tom Harding -- are all accomplished instructors.

For more information on the Kendall Academy, visit Miles of Golf at 3113 Carpenter Road in Ypsilanti, just 1.5 miles northeast of the US-23/I-94 interchange, call 877-973-9005 or visit

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tee Times 4 Turf online auction benefits the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation

Looking for affordable golf?

I've got one better. How about affordable golf for a good cause?

There's a great online golf auction program that benefits turfgrass research at Michigan State University through the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation. The auction is called Tee Times 4 Turf and can be found at The online auction runs May 1-15. You will find more than 200 golf packages from all over the state of Michigan at good prices.

All of the money raised will go directly to Michigan State University for turfgrass research to make the game of golf better and more cost effective. And, because the money goes through the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation (a Michigan 501(c)3 foundation specifically raising money for turfgrass research at Michigan State University), there is no overhead or costs taken out. Every penny of your bid price goes directly to research.

Let the bidding begin.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Champions for Change set to air 2 p.m. Saturday on CBS

This weekend is sure to be must-see TV with The Masters.

But be sure to get in front of the tube Saturday before tournament coverage to check out the coverage of the Champions For Change, the cool charity shootout last summer at the Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor. There's a good chance you'll see me lurking in the background at some point, taking pictures and keeping a close eye on this legendary foursome.

The special -- which airs at 2 p.m. Saturday on CBS -- will highlight the friendly shootout between course designer Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller, as well as the transformation underway in the Benton Harbor and St. Joseph communities in Berrien County, spearheaded by the Harbor Shores development.

Collectively, the foursome boasts 199 PGA TOUR wins and 35 major championship victories, teed off together for competitive play.

Following the golf, all four players took part in An Evening for Champions at The Mendel Center Mainstage at Lake Michigan College. The roundtable discussion gave guests the opportunity to interact with the four legends as they discussed their past battles on the golf course, the state of the game of golf and how Harbor Shores will serve to revitalize the Benton Harbor community.

The day of events was a celebration of the transformation and rebirth of Benton Harbor and a true example of how golf is being used as an enabler for social and economic revitalization. The tournament resulted in a $1 million donation to the Benton Harbor Boys & Girls Club and the First Tee, as a part of a capital campaign initiative launched in the summer of 2010.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shanty Creek Resorts an up north winter wonderland

I'm always amazed at the transformation that occurs at Michigan's top golf resorts in winter.

Some don't look like golf resorts at all. They look like they were made to be ski resorts down to every last detail.

Take Shanty Creek Resorts for instance.

I’ve always viewed Shanty Creek Resorts in tiny Bellaire through green-colored glasses. Shanty Creek’s The Legend and Cedar River are two of my favorite golf courses in the entire state.

I never knew the uphill driving range at Cedar River transformed seamlessly into a fun, speedy six-lane race course for tubing (see below). It even has its own ski lift of sorts, a rope that pulls riders sitting in their tube to the top of the hill. I call it luxury sledding because you get to skip the worst part of the whole activity: walking uphill dragging your ride.

Nor did I realize that the hillside leading to the first fairway at The Legend – which tumbles dramatically downhill – serves as a makeshift home for youngsters sledding. Where were those beautiful golf courses I adore? Buried in bunches of snow.

My “oh wow” moment at Shanty Creek Resorts came while standing atop the slopes behind the Lakeview Hotel & Conference Center.

On the horizon, out past the snowy Summit Village’s ski slopes, the setting sun hung over Lake Bellaire like a night light, shimmering hues of orange, pink and yellow. It was a cool northern Michigan lightshow (see top photo).

I got to experience the resort from a new perspective on a blustery February weekend – with skis instead of golf clubs, with white ski trails instead of green fairways. It was a real treat.

Shanty Creek’s two mountains, the Summit and Schuss, deliver thrills and spills with 53 well-groomed runs and 450 feet of vertical terrain. Snowboarders can ride through four terrain parks and a half-pipe. Cross-country skiers can revel in 31 kilometers of trails.

Shanty Creek’s three villages – Summit, Schuss and Cedar River (see the bottom photo) – ensure there’s something for everyone. Staying at the Summit village is perfect for younger and beginner skiers like those in my family. The slopes aren’t as steep as they are at Schuss, and there’s an indoor pool and hot tub to relax in. The hotel is fresh off a $10 million renovation. The timber-laden Grand Lobby and the Lakeview Restaurant & Lounge, good for fine dining or a casual breakfast buffet, overlooks the slopes and Lake Bellaire. Our spacious, modern room had a fireplace and kitchen. We could have stayed there a week and not felt cramped, crowded or homesick.

Schuss Mountain had one amenity – the Magic Carpet – that my children missed when skiing at Summit. It’s so much easier to step onto the moving escalator than trying to arm-wrestle a tow rope. Schuss is also home to Ivan’s, a tavern-style restaurant that serves all the comfort foods people crave when on vacation. At night it’s a hoppin’ joint with live music or a deejay and dancing.

We didn’t have time to explore all the trappings of the resort in winter. Friday nights, there’s free popcorn and hot chocolate and family movie night in the Lakeview lobby. Dog sled rides, sleigh rides, music/magic shows – all at Schuss Mountain – and the Summit Scavenger Hunt provide nonstop action on Saturdays. (Sleigh rides are Sundays, too.). Snow schools were packed the weekend we visited.

All this comes at affordable prices. Shanty Creek touts the “Midwest’s Most Affordable Ski Package,” including the Summit Ski package starting at $75 per person on weekends and the Midweek Ski package starting at $54 per person. Both require a two-night minimum and include lodging in a condo guestroom, two-day ski passes and complimentary skiing on your arrival night. Children under 8 ski free and those under 12 eat free. Day passes to ski at Summit can cost as low as $18.

I’ve always thought of golf as the ultimate family sport, but every time I go skiing with my wife and two kids, I start to realize how much more bonding occurs on the slopes than the fairways. My children, ages 6 and 8, are in their second seasons of skiing, so it’s been fun teaching them the few tricks I know. I can’t take my 6-year-old golfing, so skiing already has a leg up on golf in that regard.

By the looks of things around here, winter isn’t going away anytime soon. There’s still plenty on tap at the resort:

March 5-6, Mardi Gras and Slush Cup Weekend: An up north Cajun celebration on the slopes of Schuss Mountain with bead bobbing, a frozen-fish toss, shovel races, dummy darts, Mardi Gras Party and much more. Included in this celebration is Shanty Creek’s most popular winter event – a racecourse on an icy 40′ pond.

March 7–11, Friends of Facebook Week: “Friends” of Shanty Creek Resorts on Facebook will be privy to exclusive deals.

March 12–13, Irish Weekend: All things Irish will fill this weekend plus the annual downhill Cardboard Classic. Utilizing only cardboard, glue and tape for their sleds, contestants will race down the ski slopes at Schuss Mountain.

March 14–18, Canadian Week: Our friendly neighbors to the north can score some deals.

March 26, The Schuss Mountain Snow Challenge: This unique and exciting off road truck race, in its third year, features side-by-side racing up the snow covered face of Schuss Mountain’s Good Knight run. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes will participate. The cost for competitors is $20.00 per vehicle entry.

It took me years to figure out – I gave up skiing for 10 years before taking it up again last year – that it just doesn’t pay to fight Mother Nature. A mid-winter visit to Shanty Creek might help you learn appreciate the cold, too, even if you’re secretly waiting for the snow to melt. Like me.

Visit for more.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Take a winter golf trip to the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa

How about a golf getaway to Northern Michigan?

No, I'm not crazy. Yes, there's snow on the ground.

It's OK, the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme, near Traverse City, has you covered.

The resort is offering a Winter Golf Package based on double occupancy that includes two nights accommodations, two hours of instruction and one 45-minute golf clinic per person, costing $214 per person in the hotel and $261 per person in the tower.

This is the fourth winter season that the resort is operating its Winter Golf Center featuring instruction by head pro, Scott Hebert, who won the 2008 PGA Professional National Championship and is a six-time Michigan Open Champion. The center features three heated indoor/outdoor practice tees.

Lessons and practice sessions are available for adults, seniors, men, women, boys, and girls. Regular hours of operation are 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday through the end of February. From March to April 3, it's 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday.

Traverse City is a beautiful place to visit in winter. The resort has an indoor pool for the kids and a spa for adults. The resort's restaurants are diverse with different menus and prices, and there are dozens of more choices in the area, known as a budding foodie destination.

FYI, the package prices do not include 8% tax and $14.95 nightly resort fee. The Golf Clinic and Golf Instruction must be scheduled in advance. Check-in begins at 4 p.m. and check-out is by 11:00 a.m.

For more, visit