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."