BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Golf Association of Michigan President John Schulte summed up his feelings about the Michigan Amateur, which was held June 18-22 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills.
“Match play is really our greatest game, and the Michigan Amateur is our greatest championship,” he said. “You have two guys going head to head, and it’s an experience of a lifetime. One goes on, one goes home, and our next champion may be a teenager, a collegiate star or someone that’s been around for a long time and hoped to win this but never had that success. They’re all going to remember it.”
This year’s champion in the 101st playing of the tourney was the collegiate star: Drew Preston, of Ada, beat Tom Werkmeister, of Kentwood, 2-up for the title. Preston, 21, just finished his playing career with Bowling Green State University. Werkmeister, 44, won the championship in 2009.
“It feels awesome, and to beat a guy like Tom, who I’ve known for four years or so. I remember looking up to him and thinking I want to be able to play with him someday,” Preston said. “Now, I’m here, and it’s pretty gratifying. I guess that’s a good word for working pretty hard for four years of school and golf. Winning here today is awesome.”
In the semifinals, Preston beat Novi’s Wesley Gates 4 and 3. Werkmeister defeated Grand Rapids’ Brian Hayward in 19 holes, but said that fatigue didn’t play a factor.
“I like Drew. He’s a great kid. I’ve known him for a handful of years. He has a great family. He’s a really nice kid, so I can’t help but feel good for him,” Werkmeister said.
The Amateur began with qualifying sites across the state to whittle the field down to 168 players. Players’ ages ranged from 15 to 72. The first two rounds were 36 holes of stroke play to further reduce the field to the top 64 players, who then took part in the match play portion.
Preston won six matches for the title.
“This is the best I’ve felt about my game in a long time,” Preston said. “I needed it. I do have pro aspirations, but with some of the scores I was shooting there for a while, I was kind of, you know, not sure about it.”
Locally, 50 players were part of the field, including veteran Ken Hudson of Bloomfield Hills and newcomer Zach Preuss of Rochester Hills.
Preuss just finished his prep career with Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, where he helped lead the Lancers to a fourth-place finish in Division 4 and took third-place finish individually.
This was his first experience with match play. After earning a 12th seed in stroke play, he fell to Greg Davies 2 and 1 in the first round.
“You’re not playing against the course; you’re playing against another person. It was my first experience doing that, but mentally, you have to realize it’s the same thing, and you just have to play your own game,” he said.
Preuss, who is playing for Cornerstone University next season, said it was a well-run tournament, and his nerves were comparable to the state final.
“I think all tournaments have pressure, because as a competitor you always want to succeed and do well regardless of the stage that it’s being played on,” he said.
For Hudson, an Oakland Hills member, he’s a veteran when it comes to the Amateur; this was his 12th go-around in the tournament.
This was a special one for him, playing on his home course in front of family and friends. He said the greens keepers “should be applauded” for how well maintained the course was during the week.
“They gave us the best the course had to offer,” he said.
Hudson won his first match before falling in sudden death in the second round. In 2008, he finished in the round of 16.
At 47 years old, Hudson said, it’s a challenge taking on college athletes who are able to practice every day, compared with him and other competitors who have family and job obligations, but he still looks forward to the test.
“In match play, you have a better chance. You can’t expect to beat a college player day in and day out. It’s nearly impossible. But I think in match play, for 18 holes, anyone can beat anyone,” he said.
Playing in the state’s most prestigious tournament for over a decade, Hudson added that these days he works more on the mental side of the game than his actual swing.
“Nerves are always going to be there,” he said. “You have to embrace it and get through it. That’s kind of the fun part: How do you deal with it?”
For more information on the GAM and full results of the Amateur, visit www.gam.org.