In September, Midland’s Kimberly Dinh joined an elite company of champions as she won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Stonewall GC outside of Philadelphia, PA. A multiple state champion in Michigan, Dinh became only the second woman from Michigan to win a USGA championship, following Kalamazoo’s Kim Moore who won the inaugural USGA Adaptive Open (Women’s Division) last summer.
Dinh’s accomplishment got me thinking about how rare a feat it is to claim a national individual championship. It’s something only done by eight Michiganders including Dinh and Moore.
Overlooked in my column were Michigan’s first two champions: Sam Kocsis and Tom Draper.
In 1955, Kocsis—brother of Chuck and Emerick—won the U.S. Publinx Championship. He topped Lewis Bean 2-up in the final match at Coffin Golf Course in Indianapolis, besting a then-record of 2,007 entrants. Sam’s brother, Chuck, is considered Michigan’s greatest amateur but he never won a USGA championship. He came close, as he was runner-up in the 1956 U.S. Amateur.
Some added notes about the U.S. Publinx which was open to players who were not members of private golf clubs. It’s no longer being conducted by the USGA. In 1964, it was won by Bill McDonald, 20, from Topeka, Kansas. A few years later, McDonald moved to Michigan and became a teacher as well as a standout amateur in the state. He’s a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame (MGHOF.)
In 1971, Detroit’s Tom Draper raised the trophy at the U.S. Senior Amateur at Sunnybrook CC in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. The celebrated Red Run CC member, who also won the prestigious North & South Amateur in 1965, turned back Ernest Pieper Jr., 3 and 1 in the Finals. Draper is a member of the MGHOF.
In 2002, Flint’s Greg Reynolds was Michigan’s next champion when he won the Senior Amateur by taking down Mark Bemowski, 4 & 3, at Timuquana C.C., Jacksonville, Fla. Reynolds was inducted into the MGHOF in 2003. Incidentally, two other Michigan players have lost in the U.S. Senior Am finals: Bud Stevens in 1988 and Jerry Gunthorpe in 2021.
In 2011, Alma’s Randy Lewis won the Mid-Amateur Championship at the age of 53, an age record that may be unassailable given the field is restricted to players 25 years and older and players must not use a cart for 36 holes of qualifying and then six matches. And Lewis won it in Houston, TX, with high temperatures and humidity. He earned an invitation to the Masters the following April. Lewis nearly won the Mid-Amateur in 1996 but lost in the final match, 3 & 2, to John “Spider” Miller in Hartford, Conn. Lewis entered the MGHOF in 2009.
in 2016, Grand Rapids’ Tom Werkmeister was the individual medalist at the USGA Men’s State Team Championship at the Country Club of Birmingham, Birmingham, Ala. Michigan won the overall team title with Anthony Sorentino and Evan Bowser joining Werkmeister (MGHOF, 2014) on the winning roster. This championship is no longer being conducted by the USGA.
In 2019, Canton’s James Piot captured the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont CC in Oakmont, PA. Like Dinh, Piot overcame a three-hole deficit to win the title 2-and-1 victory over Austin Greaser, of Vandalia, Ohio. With the title, Piot also played in the Masters.
In 2022, Moore, the head women’s golf coach at Western Michigan University, won the first U.S. Adaptive Open (women’s division), a competition for golfers with physical disabilities, at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in N.C. Moore, born without a right foot and a severely clubbed left foot, won the championship by eight shots.
This leads us back to Kimberley Dinh, Michigan’s newest USGA national champion. Due to her quarterfinal showing a year ago, Dinh was exempt from qualifying for this year’s Mid-Amateur. The tournament was open to any female golfer who had reached her 25th birthday by September 9 and whose Handicap Index did not exceed 9.4.
Dinh is 31 years of age and has an index of +3.4, meaning she regularly busts par when she plays. A senior research specialist for Dow Inc. in Midland, Dinh had a stellar amateur record in Michigan even before her win at Stonewall. She has won two Michigan Women’s Mid-Ams and a Michigan Women’s Amateur title.
As noted last week with her triumph, Dinh is exempt and will play in the 2024 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club next May. She also has an exemption for qualifying in the next ten U.S. Mid-Amateurs. As such, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn someday Dinh becomes Michigan’s first player with multiple USGA trophies. Time is on her side.
One final note about being a USGA champion. In my opinion, one of the all-time golf records that won’t be broken is Tiger Woods’ feat of winning six consecutive USGA titles. It’s hard to fathom how Tiger won three U.S. Junior titles in ’91-’93 followed by three U.S. Amateurs in ’94-’96.
To earn those titles he had to win 36 matches in a row.