Archives for June 2017

Grosse Ile Pro Jeff Cuzzort Sets First-Round Pace in 100th Michigan Open Championship

HIGHLAND – Jeff Cuzzort of Grosse Ile liked that he was paired with former Michigan Open champions like himself in the first round of the historic 100th Michigan Open Championship presented by LaFontaine Cadillac at Prestwick Village Golf Club Monday.

“I was very comfortable with those guys,” he said of Tom Gillis of Lake Orion and Randy Hutchison of Traverse City after shooting a 5-under 67 to set the first-round pace in the state championship.

“We had a laid back atmosphere, and it was easy to play golf. Hutch and Gilley are quick golfers like me and play relaxed. Gilley pushed me along for a while, and I tried to push him along.”

Cuzzort, the 2015 Michigan Open champion and newly engaged to Ashley Kowalski, had a one-shot lead on Haslett teaching pro Chris Mory, whose 68 put him second alone.

Rich Saferian of Milford, a former junior college national champion who also played at the University of Arizona, and mini-tour pro Wes Gates of Novi checked in next with 69s.

Three golfers shot 70, including amateur Francesco Ruffino of Bloomfield, mini-tour pro Joe Juszczyk of Dearborn Heights and Northwood University golfer Matt Garland.

Defending champion Jeff Bronkema of Wayland was among those who shot 71. Also shooting 71 was mini-tour pro Willie Mack III of Grand Blanc, two-time Michigan Open runner-up Matt Thompson of Franklin and four amateurs – Jake Radom of Royal Oak, A.J. Verekois of Rockford and Michigan State, Connor Jones of Rochester and Oakland University, and Alex Scott of Traverse City.

The field of 156 golfers will be cut to the low 70 scorers and ties following Tuesday’s second round. The $57,500 championship continues through Thursday. In addition to a first-place check, the winner receives a two-year lease on a new Cadillac from LaFontaine.

Gillis, on the PGA Tour through last year and a recent inductee into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, was 3-under for a while in his round, but closed with a 72. He won the Michigan Open in 1994 as a young pro and then again in 2008 on a visit home from the PGA Tour. Hutchison, who won in 2011, had a tough day and shot 80.

“I just played solid, did my job,” said the 32-year-old Cuzzort who caddies and teaches golf. “I didn’t really drive it well, but hit a lot of greens and made a few putts. I chipped in on five from over the green. I had a pretty nasty lie there, and would have been lucky to make four from where I was at. It went in. Then I made a nice 25-footer up the hill on No. 9 for birdie. That was a good birdie. That hole was into the wind and had a back pin.”

Mory, who teaches at the Jason Guss Academy at Hawk Hollow Properties, also described his round as solid. The 27-year-old former Michigan State golfer said he hasn’t played much tournament golf this year.

“I didn’t know what I was going to get, but I feel pretty good with the day,” he said. “I played smart the whole day and putted pretty well. I had a couple of good up-and-downs and managed to get around with a good score.”

Cuzzort said his LaFontaine lease from winning two years ago recently ended, but he signed another for a new Cadillac. He said he could handle getting another Cadillac this week.

“Ashley needs some new wheels,” he said.

For complete scores click HERE

Historic 100th Michigan Open Championship, presented by LaFontaine Cadillac, Starts Monday at Prestwick Village Golf Club

HIGHLAND TOWNSHIP – When Jeff Bronkema won the Michigan Open Championship presented by LaFontaine Cadillac at Prestwick Village Golf Club a year ago, he took home more than a trophy and the first-place check.
The 28-year-old mini-tour golfer from Wayland was given a two-year lease on a black, sleek and stylish Cadillac SRX.
“I love it, and I would love to add another one for two more years,” he said Friday while playing in a large LaFontaine customer appreciation event at Prestwick Village.
Bronkema will lead the field of the historic 100th Michigan Open Championship starting Monday and continuing through Thursday at Prestwick. LaFontaine and Prestwick have teamed up for a fourth consecutive year to sponsor and host the state championship, and Ryan LaFontaine said the company is proud to be part of the Michigan Open heritage.
“We are part of it, Cadillac is part of it, Highland Township is part of it, Prestwick is part of it, and the players tell us this is their favorite tournament,” he said. “Prestwick and my Cadillac staff do such an amazing job.”
On Friday 150 golfers played, including a professional or top amateur from next week’s Michigan Open field being placed in each foursome.
Bronkema said it felt great to turn into Prestwick off M-59 for the first time since winning.
“I have a great feeling here and I love this golf course, so I’m really looking forward to getting back on it,” he said.
He has competed in just a few events since last year’s Web.com Tour qualifying where he reached the second of three stages, but said he has been practicing and is confident he will play well in his title defense.
“I played in a tournament in South America and in a U.S. Open sectional,” he said. “I played decent in South America, but didn’t put it together for four days. That will be the goal here again.”
Bronkema said the win last year means a lot.
“This has been the biggest tournament of my life for a long time,” he said. “When I first started playing in I just wanted to make the cut. I struggled so hard, and I got better every year. It felt really good to finally win it.”
He said his favorite memory is having a four-shot lead standing on the tee at No. 18 during the final round.
“I hit some really good shots and made some really good putts that week, but the thing I remember most is standing on that tee knowing that it was over, and I had it won if I could just get the ball off the tee and then somewhere around the green and finish the hole.”
Bronkema closed with a 2-under 70 for a 12-under 276. He topped 2007 champion Andy Ruthkoski of Muskegon and Eric Lilleboe of Okemos by three shots.
He said the key at Prestwick is control of the golf ball.
“The greens are super-fast so you have to control putts and your approach shots, which means you have to hit it in the fairway,” he said. “There are some places here, too, where if you miss the green you have no chance at par. It is a ball-striker’s course.”
Bronkema is one of 13 former champions representing 21 Opens who are in the starting field.
Five-time champion Randy Erskine of Lake Orion (1976, ’78, ’79, ’84, ’85), three-time champion Steve Brady of Oakland Hills Country Club (1991, ’92, ’96), two-time champion Bob Ackerman of Ackerman Golf in West Bloomfield (1975, 2003), two-time champion Tom Gillis of Lake Orion (1994, 2008), 2015 champion Jeff Cuzzort of Grosse Ile, 2013 champion Tom Werkmeister of Grand Rapids, 2012 champion Barrett Kelpin of Kalamazoo, 2011 champion Randy Hutchison of Traverse City, 2007 champion Andy Ruthkoski of Muskegon, 1989 champion Barry Redmond of Boyne Resorts, 1987 champion Jack Seltzer of Jack Seltzer Golf Academy and 1986 champion Tim Matthews of Scotts return for the historic Open.
Prestwick will challenge the field with a variety of golf holes, including some links style, traditional parkland and some carved from woodlands. Located just north of Milford in Highland Township on 426 acres of natural, rolling terrain amid a family-focused community, Prestwick was designed by architect Ron Garl.
The Michigan Open was first played in 1916 and won by Leo Diegel, who also played in the inaugural Ryder Cup matches and The Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. Many of golf’s most famous have their names listed on the Michigan Open’s James Standish Trophy including Walter Hagen, Chuck Kocsis, Al Watrous, Horton Smith, Walter Burkemo and John Barnum.
Play starts Monday at 8 a.m. The field will play 72-holes over four days with a cut after 36-holes to the low 70 scorers and ties. The public is welcome free of charge. Follow signs for parking and fan shuttles.
Contact: Justin Phillips, director of tournament operations for the Michigan PGA at jphillips@michiganpga.com or 517-641-7421
Visit www.michiganpgagolf.com for more information
Media contact: Greg Johnson 616-560-8995

Michigan Golf Hall of Fame Inducts Class of Super Six Players

BIG RAPIDS – They could be called the Super Six.

The Michigan Golf Hall of Fame’s newest class was presented Saturday in induction ceremonies at Ferris State University’s Katke Golf Club, and it featured six decorated and celebrated championship golfers.

PGA Master Professional Bob Ackerman of West Bloomfield, PGA Professional Brian Cairns of Walled Lake, PGA Tour veteran Tom Gillis of Lake Orion, former LPGA Tour player Suzy Green-Roebuck of Ann Arbor, the late Alex Ross of Detroit who was a U.S. Open winner 110 years ago, and Michigan State University women’s golf coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll of Haslett tied for the largest class in history with the induction group of 1990. They bring the number of inductees to 119.

“It’s humbling to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Green-Roebuck who joins her father Pete Green, a 1986 inductee, in giving the Hall of Fame its first parent-child members. “It’s hard to find the right words to describe how wonderful it feels.”

Ackerman, 63, owner of Bob Ackerman Golf in West Bloomfield, won his first Michigan Open title in 1975 as an amateur and added a second in 2003 while also winning the Michigan Senior Open that year and being named Michigan PGA Player of the Year.

Cairns, 52 and a teaching professional at Fox Hills Learning Center in Plymouth, was inducted into the Michigan PGA Section’s Hall of Fame last year. His credentials include being a three-time Michigan PGA Professional Champion and being named the national Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year in 2015.

Gillis, 48, played nine seasons on the PGA Tour including 2016 and has been a touring professional since 1993, including stints on the European Tour, the Web.com Tour and has played competitive golf in 26 countries. He plans to play the Champions Tour when he turns 50.

Green-Roebuck, 50, won her third Michigan Women’s Open title last summer at age 49. She played for seven years on the LPGA Tour in the 1990s, and was a four-time winner on what is now the LPGA’s Symetra Tour. As an amateur she won the Michigan Women’s Amateur among other titles.

Ross, who died in 1952 at age 72 is the brother of famed golf course architect Donald Ross, and is credited with having won seven of golf’s major championships because of his 1907 U.S. Open win at the Philadelphia Cricket Club and six North and South Opens at Pinehurst Resort (considered a major in the early 1900s). The native of Dornoch, Scotland, was the head professional for 31 years at Detroit Golf Club.

Slobodnik-Stoll, 45 and a Grand Rapids native is the successful head women’s golf coach at Michigan State University with five Big Ten titles and 10 trips to the NCAA Championships, and as a player is the winningest golfer in Golf Association of Michigan history with 15 titles, including two Michigan Women’s Amateur Championships and an unprecedented eight GAM Mid-Amateur wins.

The MGHOF is a heralded collection of portraits, plaques and memorabilia that currently commemorates the likes of Walter Hagen, Chuck Kocsis, Horton Smith and more current notables Dave and Mike Hill, Dan Pohl, Meg Mallon and Kelly Robbins. The collection will soon be housed and displayed in the new Professional Golf Management Learning Center planned by Ferris State University at its Katke facility. A $4 million fundraising effort is nearing completion.

The MGHOF is administered by the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame Committee, which is funded through the non-profit Michigan Golf Foundation (501(c) (3) since 1996) and includes 18 members representing a cross-section of the state’s golf associations as well as the golf media. The MGHOF committee conducts an annual election to recognize the achievements of competitive Michigan golfers, but also those of individuals who have contributed to the growth of the game.

  Find out more at http://www.michigan-golf-foundation.com.

  Media contact: Greg Johnson, co-chairman, 616-560-8995, greggie24@hotmail.com

MICHIGAN OPEN, 100 YEARS: Steve Brady, JR Roth, Scott Hebert, Ryan Brehm Represent Fourth 25-Year Span of the Championship

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last in a series of four releases regarding 25-year segments of the Michigan Open Championship, which will be played for the 100th time June 12-15 at Prestwick Village Golf Club in Highland. The fourth 25-year span of tournaments were presented from 1992-2017.
BY GREG JOHNSON
The favorites to win the Michigan Open in recent years have usually been the touring professionals who are working to make the dream of playing on the PGA Tour happen, and yet find time to return home to play in the state championship.
Steve Brady, JR Roth, Scott Hebert and Ryan Brehm, a decorated foursome of the most recent 25 Michigan Opens, each chased the dream in some fashion.
Brady tried many times in the old form of PGA Tour Q-School. Roth has made his tour chase largely as a senior golfer with some success, and he made the cut in the recent Senior PGA Championship. Scott Hebert won multiple mini-tour events on the tour golf road and has been dominant at home in the Michigan PGA Section. And Brehm, at age 30, made it happen this year with full status on the PGA Tour and earlier this week qualified for the U.S. Open, too.
In Michigan Open history they are multiple winners, and seemingly always played in the final groups in the final round.
Brady won the state championship three times (1991, ’92 and ’96) and Roth won twice (1998, 2004) often going head-to-head. Hebert is tied with legend Al Watrous with the most wins all-time at six, including a record four consecutive (1997, ’99, 2000, ’01, ’02 and ‘06). Brehm has won three times (2009, ’10, and ’14).
Brady is the only one of the four playing in the 100th Michigan Open next week. Roth lives in New Mexico and doesn’t fulfill the residency requirement. Hebert, the 2002 PGA Professional National Champion, had to choose between the Michigan Open and the national championship for club pros which conflict this year on the golf schedule. Brehm also has a conflict on the schedule – the U.S. Open next week at Erin Hills in Hartford, Wis.
“It’s the 100th Michigan Open, I think I can still play a little bit and it just felt like I should be there,” said Brady, who is the director of golf at Oakland Hills Country Club, in his 20th year there, highly regarded as a teacher of the game and is a member of the Michigan PGA Hall of Fame and the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
A Saginaw native, the 58-year-old Brady started playing in the Michigan Open as an amateur and remembers close calls before winning his first in 1991.
“For a long time I was close, but couldn’t punch it over the goal line,” he said. “When I won in 1991 it was my first year working at Detroit Golf Club and John Traub (head golf professional) allowed me to play some. Then I made it two in a row, and I was ready to make it three.”
He awakened the first day of the 1993 Michigan Open with neck spasms, and surmises today he hit too many practice shots in preparation.
“I was always a grinder,” he said.
He said his third win in the Michigan Open stands out.
“Right behind me was Hebert, Roth and (Tom) Gillis,” he said. “It was never easy to deal with those guys, a tour player like Tom (Gillis) and two other guys who were good enough to be on tour for a long time. It was pretty cool beating them.”
He laughs at the memory of his second win at The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort. It was 1992 and in the final round Brent Veenstra, who would win in 1993, fired a stunning course record 10-under 62.
“I became a trivia answer,” he said. “Who won the Michigan Open the year Veenstra shot 62 at The Bear?”
Brady won in his mini-tour days, but considers the three Michigan Open titles the thing that gave him credibility in Michigan golf.
“Great memories, too, especially of taking the family up to The Bear, and there are so many great golfers who have won it,” he said. “You win a Michigan Open it says something about you. You have to have some guts. You have to really want to do it. You have to grind it out. I’m proud of it.”
Roth, 59 and the head golf professional at San Juan Country Club in Farmington, N.M., these days, said his first Michigan Open in 1998 is the one he remembers with the most favor.
“That was a big one for me because I spent so many years trying to do it,” he said. “I started playing in them when I was a junior in high school. I remember having a two or three-shot lead in ’92 with three holes to go, but made bogey at 17 and 18 at The Bear and then made a bogey on the first playoff hole, too. That stung for a long time.
“It helped in ’98 when I finally won that I was six or seven shots back starting the final round, and I knew I would have to shoot the round of a lifetime to have a chance. I shot 65 and birdied the first playoff hole. I was thrilled, as thrilled to win as I was disappointed to lose in 92. ”
Roth, who is tied with Hebert and Watrous for the most major wins in Michigan PGA Section history at 15, said the Michigan Opens were huge for his career.
“I might not be in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame without those Open wins,” he said. “It says something to beat the guys who play in it and to achieve at something you put so much time and work into.”
Roth, who returns each year to play in the Boyne Tournament of Champions, called the years at The Bear and Grand Traverse Resort (1981-2008 the tournament was played on the resort’s courses, including 24 times on The Bear) the pinnacle of Michigan PGA Section golf.
“It had great sponsorship, great purses, a tough golf course and it was special to be up there with the family,” he said. “We would rent a house with the (1989 Open champion Barry Redmond’s family) at Elk Rapids. It seems like our families grew up together there.”
Hebert, 48 and the head golf professional at Traverse City Golf & Country Club, grew up at The Bear in a way. The native of Escanaba worked at the resort early in his career and then again later in his career before taking his current position. He was considered the horse for that Jack Nicklaus-designed course.
“I love the Bear, no doubt,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about records or the Hall of Fame or any of that when I was playing and still don’t really. Back in those days I was trying to make some money so I could keep playing (tour golf), and I was never really about counting the victories. It’s the competition. I still play to get in those spots, get myself nervous and try to do well.”
The Michigan PGA Hall of Fame and Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member said the Michigan Open wins have helped him at every step of his career.
“They certainly helped me get the jobs I had at Grand Traverse, and here at Traverse City,” he said. “It helps with credibility in instruction. I can work with the young kids, the college golfers and give them a sense of what it is going to feel like when they get in those pressure spots.”
He said he would be in the field this year without the conflict of the PGA Professional National Championship on the schedule.
“I still want that one more,” he said. “So maybe I count in a way now, but it is more because I still think I have a little bit of golf left in me. Plus, 100 years, I really don’t like missing that. That’s a testament to Michigan golf really. The sponsorship through all those years, and the PGA’s involvement in running it; 100 years is a lot of history and quite an accomplishment.”
Brehm, living the dream this year that so many have chased, was still working toward it when he won his most recent Michigan Open. It was 2014, the first of four consecutive at Prestwick Village in Highland, and he talked about what the win meant to him.
“This tournament means so much to me because it is at home, in Michigan and honestly I feel every win gets me one step closer to my goal, which is to play at the highest level,” he said. “It’s not about the money or the car, though those are really great and I will enjoy them. It’s about the satisfaction of accomplishing something, getting the job done.”
The Mount Pleasant native and former Michigan State University standout showed a long game that marked him as a player headed for stardom when he played in the Michigan Open starting in the mid-2000s.
Often the talk about him was about how far he hit it on various holes, but he said he had to become a more complete player beyond sending the golf ball great distances. He said the Michigan Open wins helped him build a complete game.
“I learned to win, and you gain a lot from that,” he said.
While Brady, Roth, Hebert and Brehm stood out in the final 25-year span of the Michigan Open, other notables were champions along the way.
Tom Gillis, who last week was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, won in 1994 and again in 2008 after traveling the world and playing on various tours, including the European Tour and the PGA Tour. He plans to try the Champions Tour when he turns 50 in two years.
Barrett Kelpin, a Kalamazoo mini-tour golfer, shot 23-under in his first pro event to win the 2012 Michigan Open at The Orchards in Washington Township. It tied the all-time tournament scoring record first set by Chick Harbert when he won in 1948 at Tam O’Shanter Country Club.
Tom Werkmeister of Grandville, a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member, became the first amateur to win since Bob Ackerman in 1975 when he took the 2013 title at The Orchards.
Ackerman, 63, won his second Michigan Open in 2003, 28 championships later as a Master PGA Professional. He was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame last week, and he is in the field for the 100th Michigan Open next week.
“Looking forward to it,” he said.

FEATURED: Collage; clockwise from top left Scott Hebert, Steve Brady, JR Roth and Ryan Brehm
MICHIGAN PGA CONTACT: Justin Phillips, director of tournament operations, jphillips@michiganpga.com or 517-641-7421
MEDIA CONTACT: Greg Johnson, greggie24@hotmail.com, 616-560-8995
Visit www.michiganpgagolf.com for more information

Beurmann / Raymond win the 2017 Nike State Pro Am !

Harbor Springs,  MI -Ron Beurmann, professional from the Country Club of Jackson and his amateur partner Mike Raymond new it would take a low score from them to win and that is just what they did with a round of 64 on the Boyne Highlands Heather Course to win the Nike State Pro Am by one shot, finishing at (-12) under for the tournament.

114 teams participated this Monday and Tuesday in this Pro / Am scratch best ball playing both the  Heather and Ross Courses at Boyne Highlands and sponsored by Nike. After the first round it was the  team of professional Jerry Roman from Hidden River Golf & Casting Club and his amateur partner Jack Weller that grabbed the first round lead after a round of 64 ( -8 ) under on the Heather Course at Boyne Highlands. The teams were repaired by score for the final round on Tuesday on their respective courses.

With a opening round of (-4) on the Ross Course Ron and Mike were 4 shots back of the leaders heading into the final round on Tuesday. They got off to a slow start as they were 1 over par after 3 holes. Starting on Hole #4 though they really turned it on and  went on to birdie 6 of the next 7 holes. They then added birdies at #14, #15 and #17 on route to their round of 64 (-8) under. Despite all of the birdies it was the par save from the back bunker on hole #18 by Mike that they will remember that clinched the one shot victory.

This is Ron and Mike’s third State Pro Am title as they have now won this event in three different decades with previous wins in 2001 and 1995.

Coming in second with a total of 133 (-11) under were the teams of professional Matt Zavadil from Oakland University and his amateur partner Conner Jones as well as professional Kyle Wittenbach, Men’s Golf Coach at Ferris State University and his amateur partner Brett Green.

We would like to thank our host site Boyne Highlands. The golf courses were in tremendous shape and the staff does a great job hosting this championship.

We would also like to thank Nike for their continued support of the Michigan PGA and this event. Nike had a mobile pro shop set up in the Boyne clubhouse where all the players received money to spend their as a tee gift.

For complete round  results click HERE

MICHIGAN OPEN, 100 YEARS: Randy Erskine, Lynn Janson, Buddy Whitten, Jack Seltzer Represent Third 25-Year Span of the Championship

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of four releases regarding 25-year segments of the Michigan Open Championship, which will be played for the 100th time June 12-15 at Prestwick Village Golf Club in Highland. The third 25-year span of tournaments were presented from 1967 – ’91.
By Greg Johnson

The modern era of the golf professional – in which the professional started spending much more time on the games of members than on his own – ushered in completely during the third 25-year segment of the Michigan Open Championship.
Many still managed to play especially well in competition though, and Randy Erskine, Lynn Janson, Buddy Whitten and Jack Seltzer were the names seemingly always at the top of the leaderboard in the Michigan Open.
Erskine led the way, winning five times (1976, ’78, ’79, ’84 and ’85). Janson won twice (1974 and ’80). Whitten won back-to-back in 1982 and ’83. Seltzer won once in 1987 after losing on the final hole in ’86 to a dramatic Tim Matthews birdie.
Erskine and Seltzer, in fact, are playing in the 100th Michigan Open in large part because it is the centennial celebration of a championship that means a lot to them.
“Last year I said this is my last year, but I didn’t realize this year was 100 years,” Erskine said. “I have to play in that. The golf courses are just so long for me now. If I make the cut it will be amazing.”
Seltzer said his wife Pam had to talk him into it.
“I haven’t played the last two years, but it is the 100th, and it is the Open, and that tournament has always meant a lot to me,” he said. “Pam was right. I don’t want to miss this one. I think I got one more in me, even at (age) 66.”
Janson, who has vision issues and hasn’t played in the Open since 2008, said he entertained the thought of playing in the 100th, but it was fleeting. Whitten has lived in Pensacola, Fla., in recent years, and saves his trips to Michigan for visiting grandchildren, the children of his son Chris, the head men’s golf coach at the University of Michigan.
Erskine, by the numbers the most dominant player in the Michigan Open during that era, first made a splash on the state seen as a Wolverine. The Ohio native raised in Battle Creek is currently a Lake Orion resident, but he played collegiate golf at Michigan where he was part of a Big Ten championship team.
He followed that with a five-year off-and-on run on the PGA Tour from 1974-79, and his best finish was a tie for fifth when he came home because the tour stopped in Grand Blanc for the 1977 Buick Open.
In the 1980s he settled into the club professional life working 10 years at Washtenaw Country Club in Ypsilanti and 25 years at Great Oaks Country Club in Rochester. He won his first two Michigan Opens on the familiar grounds of the University of Michigan Golf Course while still a tour player, but he said the one Michigan Open win that stands out in his memory was in 1984.
“It was the first year that The Bear (at Grand Traverse Resort) was open and I played two practice rounds, never broke 80 and won money in the group,” he said. “I thought I had lost my game and that I would miss the cut.”
Things improved. He shot 75 in a pro-am and went on to win the championship on a course that the original developer had asked Jack Nicklaus to make as tough as possible.
“If you missed the fairway back then the long grasses were over a foot tall and you lost your ball,” Erskine said. “You had no options. It was so hard that you survived your rounds there.”
The five wins in the Michigan Open are the highlights of his career, Erskine said.
“I think they show I was a good player for a long stretch of time, and that probably means more to me than anything,” he said. “The competition was so strong, too. Lynn, Buddy, and the great young kids kept coming. I played pretty consistently for a long time. I’m pretty proud of that.”
Erskine, who will be 69 on July 8, is still very competitive in the senior set. He won the PGA Senior Stroke Play Championship last year by shooting rounds of 64-66-64 for a record 22-under par total at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
“I can still play with the guys my age,” said the member of the Michigan PGA Hall of Game and the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame. “The kids bomb it past me 100 yards, but with the guys my age I can relive the feel of competing and competing well.”
Janson’s lasting Michigan Open competition memory is winning his first Open in 1974 at Bedford Valley in a loaded five-golfer playoff.
“It was me, Thom Rosely (1964 Open champion), Gene Bone (1965 and ’66 Open champion), Al Mengert and Bob Ackerman (1975 and 2003 Open winner), who was an amateur then and came back and won it the next year,” Janson said. “It went three holes before I made a 25-footer for birdie to win it.”
He said winning the Open was a goal he set when he first started in competitive golf.
“It is rewarding that winning the Michigan Open is a part of golf history now,” he said. “There have been some really renowned players that played in Michigan and in the Michigan Open. It is fun to think about it for my family, and talk about it with golfers and to look at that trophy once in a while.”
Janson, a member of the Michigan PGA Hall of Fame and the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, had a memorable playing career. He was an All-American at Michigan State, won the Michigan Amateur in 1968, won the Michigan PGA Championship four times and qualified for and played with the world’s top players in seven U.S. Opens and seven PGA Championships.
A native of East Lansing, he will be 70 in December and is still working in golf and teaching the game as the PGA professional and owner of Hastings Country Club.
Whitten worked at Blythefield Country Club near Grand Rapids 28 years before moving to his hometown of Pensacola, Fla., where he worked with Champions Tour player Jerry Pate, PGA Tour player Joe Durant and LPGA player Allison Fouch among other students. He is retired from teaching, but still finds time to volunteer with the local First Tee Program.
He said he remembers few details about his back-to-back Michigan Opens beyond the weather that welcomed the golfers to the original resort course at Grand Traverse Resort, which is now called Spruce Run.
“It never got above 50 degrees that first year, the wind was blowing 40 miles per hour and it was raining sideways,” he said. “I know the last round I went through two rain suits. I had to buy a new one at the turn in the golf shop. Mine had stopped working. Water was coming right through it.”
Whitten, who served in Vietnam as a medic and played college golf at Southern Mississippi, became a club pro after just missing PGA Tour Qualifying three consecutive times. He won the 1979 PGA Professional Championship then known as the National Club Pro Championship, and in 1983 made big news while playing as a club pro qualifier in the 65th PGA Championship at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. He shot a 66 to take the early first-round lead and shared his story before the nation’s media. Hal Sutton shot 65 later and was a wire-to-wire champion.
It wasn’t Whitten’s last elbow rub with the best golfers in the world. At age 50, 20 years ago, he qualified for the Champions Tour, which was then called the Senior PGA Tour, played a full season and finished 54th on the money list, just short of keeping full playing status.
As for the Michigan Open, the five-time Michigan PGA Player of the Year threatened many more times after his back-to-back wins, and has great respect for the history of the championship.
“Michigan has a great golf history and the Michigan Open is a big part of that,” said the Michigan PGA Hall of Fame and Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member. “It didn’t take me long to learn about it when I first started playing there, and now with Chris coaching at Michigan I’ve learned more about the history and golfers like Chuck Kocsis (three-time Open champion). It’s a big deal.”
Seltzer was part of one of the most dramatic moments in Michigan Open history in his 1987 win. He stepped up to the No. 9 hole, a treacherous par 3 over water at The Bear and made a hole-in-one and his favorite Michigan Open memory.
“I just had bogeyed 8 to fall into a tie for the lead, and I was hitting last. I made the ace and shot 32 on the back nine and won. I finished 6-under for the tournament, and I remember it was the first time at The Bear that the winner had finished under par.
“It was the year after I led or was tied for the lead all the way until the last hole and finished second. I was in the last group with Lynn Janson and Tim Matthews, and I remember on 18 Tim hit it in there to like six inches and made birdie. It was the only time I didn’t lead. So coming back the next year, making the hole-in-one and winning was gratifying, really gratifying.”
Seltzer, who continues to teach the game with his Jack Seltzer Academy at The Jewel of Grand Blanc, said the Michigan Open has always been the high-water mark for him.
“It always was,” said the Michigan PGA Hall of Fame and Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member. “I’ve won the three majors for the Michigan PGA, but to me the really big deal was the Open. You think about the history when you look at the (James Standish Trophy) – that beautiful tray with all the names on it – Walter Hagen, Al Watrous, Horton Smith. I have my name on it. You have got to be kidding me. It is a big deal.”
While Erskine, Janson, Whitten and Seltzer stood out in the third 25-year span of the Michigan Open, several other notables were champions along the way.
Mike Souchak, a 15-time PGA Tour winner who worked as the golf professional at Oakland Hills Country Club for six years after his tour days, won the 1967 Michigan Open. The former Duke University football player held the PGA Tour tournament scoring record for 46 years (257 in the 1955 Texas Open) until Mark Calcavecchia beat it by one shot in the 2001 Phoenix Open.
George Bayer, one of golf’s famous long-ball hitters and a longtime PGA Tour player, worked at Detroit Golf Club in the 1970s before become a Champions Tour player. He won the 1973 Michigan Open.
Ed Humenik, Detroit native and University of Michigan golfer with a long ball reputation, parlayed a Michigan Open win in 1988 to a short career on the PGA Tour and two wins on the Nationwide Tour.
Bob Ackerman, who is being inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame this year, won the 1975 Michigan Open as an amateur and the 2003 Michigan Open as a veteran pro. He was the first amateur to win it in 29 years (Chuck Kocsis, 1946), just the fourth all-time, and it was 38 more years before another amateur won (Tom Werkmeister, 2013).
ATTACHED: Photo of five-time Michigan Open champion Randy Erskine playing in last year’s Michigan Open at Prestwick Village.
MICHIGAN PGA CONTACT: Justin Phillips, director of tournament operations, jphillips@michiganpga.com or 517-641-7421
MEDIA CONTACT: Greg Johnson, consultant, greggie24@hotmail.com, 616-560-8995
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