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.