Monday, August 27, 2012

Hebert wins sixth Michigan PGA in seven years

I'd like to take some credit for Scott Hebert's recent win at the Michigan PGA Championship at Oakland Hills University's two courses.

But that would be a little silly. Still, I can't help but think that by dragging him out of the office a week before the championship to play a little golf on The Bear had to help. Hebert, the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa's head professional and director of instruction, talked about how he had been playing poorly, but I watched him make two birdies almost without effort in nine holes from the tips of The Bear.

At the Michigan PGA, Hebert started the day three shots off the lead and shot a final-round 3-under-par 69 on the Katke-Cousins course at Oakland University. It was just one of four rounds under par on the final day, and put him at 8-under-par 208 for the three days, and four shots ahead of Ian Ziska, the head professional at Katke Golf Club at Ferris State University, who closed with a 75.

“It’s nice to be No. 1 among your peers,” Hebert said after collecting a $6,000 first-place check, a crystal trophy and earning another inscription of his name on the Gilbert A. Currie Trophy. “To win at this point in my career when I don’t put as much effort on my game feels great. To come out and get to 8-under on two good golf courses is something to be proud of.”

Matthew Zavadil, a teaching professional with the host Oakland University Golf & Learning Center, shot a closing 71 for 214 and a tie for third place with Tom Harding of Kendall Golf Academy in Ypsilanti.

Hebert, who also has six Michigan Open victories in his career, said he hit his driver well all week, and made critical putts when needed. “I was proud of how I hit it,” he said. “It was nice playing out of the fairway most of the time. That has been my problem all summer, and not to do a commercial, but the new Titleist driver was phenomenal. Plus, I made a lot of four-footers, the kind you have to make when you really need to make them.”

Hebert, as a past PGA Professional National Champion (2008), is exempt for the 2013 club pro national championship. The next 10 golfers earned exemptions, which means Ziska, Harding, Zavadil, Brad Dean, TJ Roberts, Scott Schulte, John Seltzer, Lee Houtteman of Grand Traverse Resort, Kyle Martin of Lochmoor Club in Grosse Pointe Woods and Matt Pesta of Beacon Hills Golf Club will make the June 23-26 trip to Sun River, Ore., for the national event. Houtteman, Martin and Pesta won their spots in a four-golfer playoff for three spots. George Bowman of Oakhurst in Clarkston will be the first alternate.

“We’re going to send a strong group to Oregon,” Hebert said. “We’re all proud of our (Michigan PGA) section, and I’m proud to be on top right now.”

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Michigan PGA Championship kicks off at Oakland University this week

The Michigan PGA Championship generally signifies the end of the competitive season for Michigan's top golf professionals.

Held at Eagle Eye in recent years, the 54-hole competitions starting Monday moves to the celebrated R&S Sharf and Katke-Cousins golf courses at Oakland University. The two courses are hosting the annual championship of the top club and teaching professional players for the first time. The field will split and play a round each on the two courses Monday and Tuesday with Wednesday’s closing round on the Katke-Cousins course. An estimated $46,000 purse is at stake.

Scott Hebert, a five-time champion, will defend his title, and the head professional at Grand Traverse Resort in Acme has great memories of the Oakland University golf facilities. He won the 2008 Michigan Pro-Pro Championship there with Mick DeKorver of Sunnybrook Country Club in Grandville.

Hebert, also a six-time Michigan Open champion, has won five of the last six PGA titles, interrupted in that stretch only by 2010 champion Ron Beurmann of the Country Club of Jackson. He said defending the title he won last year at Eagle Eye Golf Club in Bath will require the best golf he has played this year.

“I’ve had such a miserable year, but I hit some balls today and it seemed to be getting better,” he said in a statement. “I’m planning to get geared up to play. I would love to win again, obviously.”

Hebert, the Michigan PGA’s Player of the Year from 2006 through 2010, will be joined in the field by 2011 Player of the Year Brian Cairns of Fox Hills Learning Center in Plymouth. Cairns, a two-time Michigan PGA champion, played with the world’s top golfers in the recent PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, S.C., after earning a spot with a top 20 finish in the PGA Professional National Championship last year. The top 10 of next week’s Michigan PGA Championship earn spots in the 2013 Professional National Championship (PNC) field, the first step in qualifying for the 2013 PGA Championship. Cairns (pictured above) missed the cut at the PGA Championship the past two years, but he'll tell you just teeing it up in a major is every club pro's dream.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Former MSU player Barb Mucha wins Wendy's Charity Challenge in Jackson

It was a successful home coming of sorts for Barb Mucha.
LPGA Tour veteran Barb Mucha, an Ohio native who played college golf at Michigan State University, recorded her first win in 14 years at the $100,000 Wendy’s Charity Challenge presented by Aveeno, held at the Country Club of Jackson on Aug. 12. Mucha held off Cindy Rarick in a two-hole playoff to win the Legends Tour’s sixth annual event in Jackson.
Both players were tied at 2-under 70 after regulation in the 18-hole tournament. Returning to the 18th hole twice for the playoff, both players scored par on the first extra hole. On the second time around, Rarick’s tee shot found the left rough, and then her approach shot clipped a tree branch, landing her ball 50 yards short of the green. Her 18-foot putt for par rolled three feet past the cup. Mucha had the steadier hand. She struck a pitching wedge to 15 feet and left her birdie attempt one foot short. The tap-in par putt awarded Mucha her first win since the LPGA’s 1998 Sara Lee Classic in Nashville, Tenn. That LPGA victory also came in a playoff.
“It feels a little surreal, but really good to win again,” said Mucha, a resident of Orlando, Fla., who won five times in her 19-year LPGA Tour career. “It’s definitely a more relaxed atmosphere on the Legends Tour, but you still have to perform to win.”
Mucha’s performance moved her into the playoff when others fell off pace. She recorded a key birdie on the 16th hole when she hit a 5-iron to 20 feet and drained the putt.
“I made some key putts,” added Mucha, who switched to the “claw grip” two years ago with a standard-length putter. Mucha has spent the last three years teaching golf in Orlando and mentoring male and female players on developmental professional tours. Her performance won her a $15,000 winner’s check. Defending champion Lorie Kane of Canada three-putted the last hole in regulation to fall out of any playoff hope. Rarick, the tournament leader, also bogeyed the 18th hole in regulation to drop into a tie with Mucha at two under. Kane and fellow LPGA Tour veteran Sherri Steinhauer finished tied for third at one-under 71, while Rosie Jones finished fourth at even-par 72.
One of eight tournaments on the Legends Tour, this year’s event featured 25 Legends players on the tour for LPGA members age 45 and over. The Wendy’s Charity Challenge has raised more than $1.65 million for Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption since 1999.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Brian Cairns represents Michigan at the 2012 PGA Championship this week

I feel for Brian Cairns.
Qualifying for the 2012 PGA Championship is pretty awesome, but having to play the Ocean course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in tournament conditions will be pretty brutal.
Cairns, a teaching pro at Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center in Plymouth, Mich., is playing in his second straight PGA Championship. Pretty heading stuff for any club pro.
The New York Times wrote a great piece at last year's PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club that featured Cairns. It reads:
Then there was the scene on the practice putting green when Brian Cairns, a teaching pro from the Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center in Plymouth, Mich., badly misjudged the ultra-speedy green at the Atlanta Athletic Club and knocked his first putt way past the hole. The ball rolled and rolled until it was close to where Phil Mickelson was practicing.As Cairns sheepishly retrieved his wayward ball, Mickelson turned and said, “Club pro, right?”But Mickelson also offered his hand to shake.“He congratulated me for getting into the tournament and talked with me for a while,” said Cairns, who is 47. “That was really flattering. I think the tour pros welcome us. They know we are part of the event.”
That story kind of sums up what the event means to Cairns and the other 19 club pros teeing it up. They'll enjoy the experience, but they're not really expected to make the cut, let alone contend. Cairns will have Jordan Young, a fellow teacher at Fox Hills, on the bag. They'll cherish the journey together, even if the fierce winds whip up off the South Carolina coast.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

J.R. Roth wins Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain

BOYNE FALLS – J.R. Roth moved to New Mexico a few years ago and plays when he gets the chance on the Champions Tour.
That has narrowed his chances for making more Michigan major championship golf history to one shot each year, but the 52-year-old former Flint and Detroit area club professional made good on it by shooting a closing 4-under-par 68 to win the Tournament of Championships for the fifth time at Boyne Mountain Resort Wednesday.
Including two wins in the now-defunct Yamaha Classic , a six-year event (1986-91) then considered a Michigan major, Roth counts 15 Michigan majors (five Tournament of Champions titles, four Michigan PGA titles, two Michigan Open titles, two Match Play titles and two Yamaha titles) on his resume. That ties him for the all-time lead in majors with Al Watrous, who built his legend with nine Michigan PGA titles and six Michigan Open titles.
“One of the reasons I keep coming back to the tournament is to try and get that record, and now I guess I’ll come back and try to beat that number,” said Roth, who is already a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member like Watrous . “I think about that number all year long.”
Roth’s closing number of 68 on the Alpine course put him at 10-under-par 206, three shots better than Marty Jeppesen, a mini-tour player from Ypsilanti who closed with a 71 for 209. Tim Matthews, who like Jeppesen was tied with Roth for the lead starting the final round, shot a closing 72 for 210 and tied for third place with low amateur honoree Wes Gates, a Bowling Green State University golfer from Novi who shot 71 to close at 210. David Nolan, a teaching pro at Van Dyke Sports Center in Warren, shot 72 for 211 and fifth place.
Roth finally pulled away in the final round with birdies on Nos. 14 and 16, just after Matthews had trouble with his driver and Jeppesen missed some key putts.
“I got a little frustrated on 6, 7, 8 and 9, kind of lost my swing a little bit, and couldn’t get the ball to go in the hole,” Roth said. “When I made the turn, I knew I needed to make three or four birdies. I was able to do that in the end, Tim and Marty had some bogeys and I was able to walk it down 17 and 18 and enjoy it a little bit.”
Matthews said three driver swings cost him, which are the kind of mistakes that can’t be made when playing against Roth.
“He hits it down the middle, knocks it on the green and makes putts, and well, wins,” Matthews said. “He’s a great, great player and that’s why he is making history.”
Roth won $10,000 of the $55,000 purse, received a crystal trophy and will have his name put on the Walter Burkemo Trophy for the fifth time. He also was honored with a green-jacket ceremony by defending champion Lee Houtteman.
This story and photo were taken from a press release by Greg Johnson.