The top amateur golfers in the state converged for the Michigan Amateur Championship June 19-23 at the Country Club of Detroit. The club will also host the U.S. Senior Amateur in 2020.

The top amateur golfers in the state converged for the Michigan Amateur Championship June 19-23 at the Country Club of Detroit. The club will also host the U.S. Senior Amateur in 2020.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Grosse Pointe gem offers local golfers a great challenge

By: Timothy Pontzer | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 26, 2018

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — For the sixth time in the course’s history, the Country Club of Detroit hosted the annual Michigan Amateur Championship.

Held June 19-23, the event pitted some of the top talent from around the state. The format featured two rounds of stroke play over the first two days to cut the field to 64 golfers. Three days of match play offered six rounds to establish a single champion.

Beau Breault — a junior golfer at Eastern Michigan University who hails from Hartland — captured the title by topping Shelby Township’s own Anthony Sorentino.

Golf Association of Michigan’s Senior Director of Rules and Competition Ken Hartman called the event one of the best in the Midwest, especially considering the strength of the 156 competitors.

“This is an incredibly strong field,” said Hartman, who is in his 17th year in his role. “This draws an incredibly high concentration of talent. Of the 156, the top 80 to 100 golfers are some of the best of the best in Michigan. Sure, there’s some guys that couldn’t play for a number of reasons, but the guys that come out really know how to play.”

In order to qualify, potential participants had to hold a handicap index of 5.4 or lower. For those not exempt for the tournament, 15 separate courses hosted qualifiers in May and June. A Second Chance Qualifier was held June 6 at Owosso Country Club.

Hartman called the course a true gem and was thrilled at the chance to utilize it for the GAM’s chief offering.

“When I was told this place was interested, I jumped on it as fast as I could,” Hartman explained. “It was a slam dunk with our board. You don’t turn down an opportunity to use this course. They’ve hosted numerous amateur championships and will have the 2020 U.S. Senior Amateur. You don’t get this opportunity very often.”

Founded in 1897, the venue hosted the Michigan Amateur in 1908, 1912, 1914 and 1929. It hosted the U.S. Amateur in 1915 and 1954, with the latter marking the first United States Golf Association (USGA) victory for Arnold Palmer.

“This course offers an incredible challenge,” Hartman continued. “The history here is almost overwhelming. You really have to be in the right spot on the greens or you can easily three-putt. It’s very treacherous if you find yourself above the hole. Setting yourself up with a good shot to the green is extremely important.”

Andrew Walker agreed. A 19-year-old native of Battle Creek, Walker is a junior golfer at Michigan State. He was the medalist of the stroke play portion of the event, carding a 66 and a 65.

“Putting was the key. These two rounds I putted better than I have in awhile,” Walker said while holding a trophy that marked his accomplishment. “The course is straightforward and plays ahead of you. If you’re hitting good shots, you can attack some of the holes. But the greens are very, very defensive. Some of the pin placements were absurd, but that’s where the putter comes into play.”

It was Walker’s third time playing the event. It’s an event he circles on his calendar.

“It’s definitely something you talk about all year long,” Walker remarked. “People look forward to it, and everyone is trying to get into it. Everybody sees how you can do on a big stage like this, so there’s added pressure, but it makes for a great tournament.”

West Bloomfield native Greg Davies missed the cut after the first two rounds by a single stroke. He carded a combined 151 but said he always enjoys the competition.

“This is the biggest event for amateur golfers in our state,” Davies said. “It’s an honor to play in it, especially in a historic place like this.”

Davies was competing in his 25th Michigan Amateur. A member of Orchard Lake Country Club, Davies won the event in 2006 and is a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.

“The qualifying part is a grind. Honestly, you just have to get in,” Davies said from experience. “If you’re seeded 64th or first, it doesn’t matter. If you start playing well, then you can go on and on, but you have to get in first. … Even though I didn’t make it, playing at an old historic course was great. (Hartman) set it up really hard and the pins were tough, but it was a lot of fun.”

Jimmy Chestnut earned the 64th and final spot in match play after carding a 150. Along with eight other golfers tied with that score, Chestnut competed in a playoff. Three holes were necessary to award the final five spots, with Chestnut’s short par putt falling on hole No. 3 to advance.

“I was trying to make birdie, but luckily par made it through,” Chestnut said. “On the first playoff hole, I saw the plaque for Arnie (Arnold Palmer), and it’s really cool to play where Arnie won his first and only U.S. Amateur.”

Chestnut estimates that he has played in 10 Michigan Amateur events. A 36-year-old resident of Royal Oak, Chestnut graduated from Grand Blanc High in 2000 and golfed at MSU, where he finished in 2005.

He captured the Michigan Amateur in 2008

“This course is just great. I had never played here before this week,” Chestnut said. “It’s fantastic. I was really looking forward to it. It’s such a good field, and to get to be a part of this again is really fun.”