It was an outstanding year for Michigan golf on and off the course. Rounds were significantly up again and a number of worthy champions were crowned and honored. Here are my Top Ten Michigan Golf Stories for 2021.
Piot wins U.S. Amateur—Long a dominant amateur in the state, Piot, 23, took his game to the highest level by claiming the U.S. Amateur title at Oakmont CC. He’s the first Michigan resident to be the reigning champion and with it comes the added perk of being invited to the Masters in April. With multiples titles, the Michigan State senior was also named the Golf Association of Michigan’s (GAM) Player of the Year. And last month, he received his largest ovation: being introduced at the Michigan vs Michigan State football game in E. Lansing!
Cook is low PGA club pro at the PGA—Somewhat overlooked by Phil Mickelson’s heralded win at the PGA Championship, Michigan’s Benny Cook, 27, finished as the low club pro at the storied championship held at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. Cook, a teaching pro at Yankee Springs GC, also won the Michigan PGA Professional Championship, the Michigan Section Match Play title and was named the Michigan PGA’s Player of the Year.
CC of Detroit hosts the U.S. Senior Amateur—The best senior male amateurs (55 years and older) descended on the CC of Detroit in Grosse Pte. Farms with the final match including Michigan’s Jerry Gunthorpe. One-up with two holes to play, Gunthorpe, 58, bogied them, losing to Iowa’s Gene Elliott, 1-up. After the match, Gunthorpe discovered the face of his driver was cracked probably on the 17th tee but didn’t publicly comment on it, not wanting to detract from Elliot’s achievement. Gunthorpe was named the Senior Player of the Year by the GAM.
“Part-timer” Dinh earns Player of the Year honors—Midland’s Kimberly Dinh played in only four competitive events this year but her stellar play in them was enough to be honored as the GAM’s 2021 Women’s Player of the Year. Dinh, 29, won the Michigan Amateur while reaching the round of 16 in match play in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship and finishing second in the GAM Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.
Smithson claims Michigan Open—Michigan State junior Bradley Smithson won the Turtle Casino Michigan Open at Grand Traverse Resort. Smithson is just the fifth amateur to win the professional event in its 104-year history.
Stuard qualifies for the FedEx Cup Playoffs—Jackson (MI) native Brian Stuard, 38, earned over $1.3 million last season on the PGA Tour, advancing to the FedEx playoffs for the fourth consecutive season and seventh overall.
Four Tour stops in Michigan—Before becoming an Olympic gold medalist, Nelly Korda won the Meijer LPGA Classic with a 25-under-par total at Blythefield CC. Ariya & Moriya Jutanugarn triumphed at the LPGA’s Dow Great Lakes Bay at Midland CC. Cam Davis recorded his first PGA Tour win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit CC, and Joe Durant held off Bernhard Langer to win the Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills.
Coon punches ticket to Augusta—As the only Michigan junior to advance out of the Oakland Hills regional qualifying site, Horton’s Bentley Coon qualified for the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals in the Boys 10-11 age division at Augusta National next April.
American Dunes GC opens—Designed by Jack Nicklaus and dedicated to the Folds of Honor cause, Grand Haven’s American Dunes was one of the most talked about new courses in the country.
“World Class” plans for Kalamazoo CC wow members—News about a massive “clean slate” makeover and a rumored $100 million plus re-building of Kalamazoo CC broke this past year. Over the next four years, the venerable club and property will be completely transformed with a new course designed by Andrew Green, one of the hottest golf architects in the country with such recent remodeling work at Inverness CC, Congressional CC and Scioto CC.
Honorable Mentions: The First Tee Program, PGA Jr. League, and Youth on Course all reported increased participation in 2021. Each of them play important and complementary roles in growing the game by instruction, competition and affordable access to courses; Notable work by architects Gil Hanse at Oakland Hills and Chris Wilczynski at Blythefield were applauded and set the clubs on firm footing in the years ahead. Here’s hoping a major is on the horizon for OHCC. Morgane Metraux won the Island Resort Championship at Sweetgrass Golf Club in Harris, Mich; Fernanda Lira won the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship at Battle Creek CC.
The founding editor of Michigan Golfer and a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, Terry Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Images courtesy of the GAM, PGA of America, American Dunes, Kalamazoo CC