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http://michigangolfer.com MICHIGAN GOLFER Publisher/Editor Art McCafferty artmccaf@glsp.com Editor Emeritus Terry Moore Associate Publisher/Producer Jennie McCafferty Writers Jeff Bairley Susan Bairley L’anse Bannon Mike Beckman Jack Berry Tom Doak Mike Duff Thad Gutowski Kelly Hill Greg Johnson B.R. Koehnemann Vartan Kupelian Tom Lang Chris Lewis Scott Moncrieff Jim Neff Norm Sinclair Michael Patrick Shiels Ron Whitten

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Janina Parrott Jacobs Herschel Nathanial Bernice Phillips Bill Shelton Brad Shelton

By Jack Berry

Photo/Video Kevin Frisch Ursula Owens Dave Richards Carter Sherline Brian Walters

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Ron Otto’s Garland By Art McCafferty

Director of Accounting Cheryl Clark

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Collegiate Spotlight: Madonna University By Chris Lewis

Michigan Golfer is produced by

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Great Lakes Sports Publications, Inc.

What’s Happening at the Golf Shows By Art McCafferty

GLSP Advertising & Business Office 4007 Carpenter Road, #366 Ypsilanti, MI 48197 734.507.0241 734.434.4765 FAX info@glsp.com glsp.com

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Now Playing: Northern Ireland By Jack Berry

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Collegiate Spotlight: Northwood University By Chris Lewis

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Smith, Mancour, Seltzer and Van Ess Elected to Michigan Golf Hall of Fame

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Gaylord Golf Mecca and the Michigan Golfer -- a Partnership for 25 Years By Art McCafferty

Michigan Golfer is published online four times a year by Great Lakes Sports Publications, Inc., 4007 Carpenter Rd, #366, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. All contents of this publication are copyrighted, all rights reserved. Reproduction or use, without written permission, of editorial or graphic content in any manner is prohibited. All unsolicited manuscripts, photographs and illustrations will not be returned unless accompanied by a properly addressed envelope, bearing sufficient postage; publisher assumes no responsibility for return of unsolicited materials. The views and opinions of the writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect endorsement of views and/or philosophy of Michigan Golfer. Back Issues: May be ordered by sending $5.00 with your name, address and issue requested to Michigan Golfer, 4007 Carpenter Road, #366, Ypsilanti, MI 48197.

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An Irish Golf Odyssey with a Backpack & Eight Mizuno Golf Clubs

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Slice of Life: Greg Johnson Files Final Story at Grand Rapids Press By Terry Moore

Cover: Robert Trent Jones Masterpiece, Hole No. 6, Treetops. Photo courtesy of Treetops. •

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An Irish Golf Odyssey With a Backpack & Eight Mizuno Golf Clubs By Jack Berry

Tom Coyne’s book got me. He walked all the way around Ireland with a backpack and eight Mizuno golf clubs in a very light bag over his shoulder. That’s right. He walked. And Irish roads are about as wide as a one-car driveway. No shoulders either. Neither car nor bus carried him although many came close to scraping him. The result was “A Course Called Ireland. A Long

Jack Berry ow many books get you laughing out loud? When you’re alone?

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Walk in Search of a Country, a Pint, and the Next Tee.” Coyne played 56 rounds and only three sites had double courses. His course yardage totaled 1,967,680. He shot 636 over par, Photo above: courtesy of Ireland Tourism Bureau. One of many Ireland delights awaits you.

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4,531 strokes, and lost 129 balls, the only measly number really. It took him nearly four months and he didn’t stay at any fancy hotels or resorts, it was B&B’s or the kindness of strangers. An Irish friend of mine read Coyne’s book, got the same laughs and said “It gives an honest picture of what golfing in Ireland is really like, warts and all.”

How did the tall redheaded Irishman from Philadelphia, a Notre Dame graduate who didn’t make the golf team, make it? Well, he was fueled at 196 pubs and consumed uncounted pints of Guinness. He also did it in one pair of shoes. His wife flew over several times and walked a few days with him. Friends and his college roommate walked and played some courses and left with shin splints. But his visitors did provide a fresh supply of odor-eaters.

I’ve driven, not walked, and played all the way around Ireland. Twenty-two seaside courses, real links with firm, rumply fairways, unlike the soft sponges we have that have no run to them, greens with breaks but not shaved to 12 on a stimpmeter, deep bunkers, gnarly rough, constant views of mountains, golden strands of sand and the Atlantic Ocean or the Irish Sea. Mix that with flag-bending wind, hard sideways rain, soft misty rain, sunshine and blue sky, often in the same round, and you have Irish links golf. What’s more, you walk. Everyone thought Coyne was crazy

Photo by Jennie McCafferty

Irish golf clubs don’t have huge buildings, big dining rooms, separate bars for men and women and they don’t have tennis courts or swimming pools. The accent is on GOLF. There are the pubs after the

game, the craic – pronounced crack and it’s a drug of laughter, banter and music.

MG publisher Art McCafferty, Mike Duff and Mike Beckman play Waterville in 2006. MICHIGAN GOLFER MAGAZINE

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Coyne started his circumnavigation on the Atlantic coast at Kilkee, 45 miles from Shannon airport. It’s a modest club with modest greens fees – 30 euros in the summer. From modest he hit Doonbeg, a new five-star luxury resort with a

Photo courtesy of Ireland Tourism Bureau

to walk every step of the way around the island, which is about the size of Indiana, but they walk on the golf course, either with a trolley – that’s a pull cart – or with the bag on their shoulder.

Photo courtesy of Ireland Tourism Bureau

Carne

Lahinch 6

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Greg Norman golf course overlooking one of the most beautiful sweeps of sand anywhere. Ireland has some high dollar (or pound or euro) golf courses but there are courses lesser-known to Americans that are every bit as good or better than the high-priced courses and they’re looking at the same ocean with fairways that weren’t made by Caterpillar or John Deere and Coyne played them, going up the Atlantic side where the courses are nestled through and between the greatest sand dunes I’ve seen. Lahinch is like a dunes-print with its two famous holes, the Klondyke fourth and Dell fifth designed by Old Tom Morris in 1899. They’ve been unchanged since by either Alister MacKenzie’s redo in 1927 or Martin Hawtree’s updating in 1999. The par five Klondyke, has a blind second shot over a 35-foot tall dune. The par three Dell is one of the most fun holes in golf. It’s tucked between two 30-foot high dunes. It’s a blind tee shot. You aim at a white stone which is moved each day depending where the cup is cut, you fire right over it. The tees are just 118 to 154 yards. The next four courses, Connemara, Carne, Enniscrone and Donegal, were designed by Eddie Hackett, the patron saint of Irish designers. Hackett made today’s minimalist designers look like Pete Dey, king of the earth-movers. Many, including Jim Engh who designed Tullymore and True North in Michigan, said Carne is second only to Ballybunion as the greatest

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Photo courtesy of Ireland Tourism Bureau

Enniscrone course in Ireland. Unfortunately, it was Hackett’s last. He died in 1996 at the age of 86.

Portrush, and then over to Royal County Down on the northeast coast.

Around the top of the island, into Northern Ireland, there’s one course after another including one of Ireland’s two Royals, Royal

Spectacular photo-favorite Old Head Golf Links is atop a rocky peninsula with a lighthouse at the end on the south shore of Ireland.

As soul-satisfying as it is to play the great links, there’s also history all the way around the island. The Titanic was built in Belfast and when Coyne and a friend played tourist in Belfast, their guide said “Took a thousand Irishmen to get her afloat and one Englishman to sink her.” Croagh Patrick, where St. Patrick spent 40 days and nights, rises in County Mayo and nearby in Westport is Matt Molloy’s pub. Molloy is the flutist in The Chieftains.

Map courtesy of the Ireland Tourism Bureau

County Sligo also is on the northwest coast, another of the must plays, and Sligo is Yeats Country for the great Irish poet who is buried nearby.

Today’s top Irish designer is Pat Ruddy who doubles as a golf magazine publisher and writer. He did the second course at Rosapenna, the wellnamed Sandy Hills, and from a helicopter spotted land for his own course, the European Club, on the Irish Sea south of Dublin.

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On the history side, the British liner Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915 just 11 miles off the coast. More than 1,100 lives were lost including millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt.

At the southwest corner of the island is one of the most beautiful counties in the world, County Kerry with a giant’s six-finger peninsulas reaching into the

Atlantic, spreading from Killarney. The Ring of Kerry is a narrow road (they don’t do wide) around the Iveragh Peninsula, mountainous with sheep somehow managing to stay upright. Kerry is home to Waterville, a links so highly regarded that Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, Jim Furyk and Ernie Els played it prior to the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale, which O’Meara won. Payne Stewart, Stuart Appleby, Lee Jansen and David Duval joined the “team” the next year before going to Carnoustie.

Photo by Jennie McCafferty

Hand-blown lead crystal trophies, the prize of countless tournaments, were made in Waterford on the southeast corner of Ireland. Sadly, the famed Waterford Crystal factory closed in 2009. The machinery was purchased by an American firm and Waterford now is made in Germany and eastern Europe. Only a museum remains in Waterford.

Cork, Ireland’s second largest city, is just inland from Kinsale, and was the home county of Irish patriot Michael Collins. Nearby is Blarney Castle with the Blarney Stone, which, if kissed, supposedly bestows the gift of eloquence. However, more lips have opened for a world famous product distilled locally by monks in the sixth century – Jameson’s Irish Whiskey.

A lifesize bronze statue of Payne Stewart is at Waterville’s putting green. 10

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Stewart was so enamored that the club named him captain and a lifesize bronze statue is at the putting green. All of the players are fishermen and the waters around Waterville are famous for salmon and sea trout. American stars regularly play the great Irish courses prior to hopping over to Scotland or England for the Open. Coyne was in the stretch after Waterville with another stop at Tralee, home of the Rose of Tralee Festival and home of Arnold Palmer’s first European course. Three things stand out – the 595-yard par five 11th hole that seems like you’ve climbing to the stars. It’s aptly named Palmer’s Peak. The 199-yard par three 16th is Shipwreck. A ship from the Spanish Armada grounded on the beach in 1588 and the crew was captured and hung. The hole is all carry, slashed out of a hillside. Then there’s the long par four 17th, Ryan’s Daughter, so named because David Lean’s film was shot along the cliffs and beach. Coyne finished farther up the southwest coast at Ireland’s most famous course, Ballybunion, which dates to 1893 and set the pattern for the ring of links around Ireland. He asked the caddy master if he knew of a kid who needed clubs and he gave him his Mizunos. He took his Keen (ecofriendly and comfortable) shoes home to Philadelphia but didn’t wear them again. He wore Crocs on the flight. - MG -

Now Playing: Northern Ireland

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By Jack Berry

orthern Ireland, those six counties perched on top of the Republic of Ireland, on that small but mighty island in the Atlantic Ocean west of Scotland, has been beating the Scots’ supposed Home of Golf like a drum. Finally it’s getting its due on Golf Channel with scenes of the beautiful Antrim Dells, the village of Bushmills with Ireland’s oldest distillery, 13th Century Dunluce

Castle, the world wonder Giant’s Causeway washed by the ocean, the new Titanic Museum commemorating the ship that was built in the Belfast shipyards, of pubs and music and breathtaking golf courses among the coastal dunes. The Causeway’s giant stone “steps” have been credited in legend to Finn McCool, certainly the world’s most interesting man ahead of that overhand bowler in the beer commercial. I hate to call the Praise to Northern Ireland a commercial, after all, it’s simply stating fact. But those beautiful pictures and words being shown and spoken on Golf Channel have underlined what’s happening in the north, the home of major champions Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke after Paddy Harrington, down in the Republic,

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led the way with three majors. There are the two royals, Royal Portrush and Royal County Down, renowned consistently among the top 10 golf courses in the world. Portrush will host the Irish Open June 28-July 1, and, if all goes well, there possibly could be a British Open championship in the future. The world’s oldest championship has been played only once before outside of Scotland and England. Strung across the top of Northern Ireland are the links of Portstewart with one of the great opening holes in golf into stadium-like dunes, then Castlerock, Bushfoot and Ballycastle which date back a century, and Royal Portrush where McIlroy, at 16, set a record of 61 on the Dunluce course which has hosted many notable championships, including recent British Senior Opens. And, just announced was permission to build the first new links course in a century, Bushmills Dunes, designed by top Scot architect David McLay Kidd who did the first course at Oregon’s Bandon Dunes. To use a football (soccer) term, it’s Up Northern Ireland! - MG •

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Ron Otto’s Garland By Art McCafferty

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blage of friends, relatives, out-right fans, and business associates who paid their final respects to Otto at his memorial service in Lewiston this past winter. A number of those individuals took the podium to remind all of this very special person who had impacted their lives.

during its heyday. During that time he represented Knorr Marketing, the Traverse City advertising firm that handled the Garland account. They developed a radio and print advertising campaign that captured the panache of Garland. Otto designed and built golf courses, real estate was sold and

It was in remembrance of those events that an impressive assem-

Jim McIntyre, CEO of Loon River, a marketing and publicity firm and a friend of the family, presided over the service. McIntyre was literally and figuratively  the voice of Garland

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he Michigan golf boom of the 90’s was fueled in part by a great economy, cheap money, a growing golf market and Michigan resorts developing courses to satisfy a perceived demand. No one personified that phenomena more that Ron Otto and his Garland. He saw his resort gain national fame and also watched as he became bogged down in debt and eventually sold.

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Photo above: Ron Otto on a Wyoming trek with his daughter Ursula Owens, who is the photographer.


homes were built to perpetuate the the dream and vision of Garland..

However, there were a few occasions when his guard was down and those cold and steely eyes that could cut right through you, softened. Those times generally occurred when he was showing off one of his new courses.  I remember two such occasions when we jumped into a cart and flew off to see a new course under construction or one that was just about to be launched.  He was animated, excited and outwardly happy. Otto was a self taught  golf course designer, who learned the

Photo courtesy of Garland Resort

McIntyre also talked of the fishing trips and the family get togethers which created a relationship with Otto that was more than just business.  However, at the conclusion of his remarks, he admitted that after all of those years, he still did not know whether Ron Otto really acknowledged him as a friend.  He was a puzzle and an enigma for himself and many who had interacted with Otto over the years.

As the stories continued and memories were shared, I thought back upon my own memories of him. While Garland was a long time client of GLSP,  I never developed more than a casual relationship with him.  Most of the advertising in our Michigan Golfer magazine or funding for one of our Golfing Michigan or Golfing the Great Lakes television shows, was arranged through either Knorr or one of Garland’s employees. Frankly,  Otto was not all that enthralled with members of the media, a point he made to me in my presence a number of times. 

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craft while creating and building 72 holes of Garland golf. His palete consisted of  thousands of trees, a water table that would easily yield ponds and lakes, soil that was receptive to the special grasses needed to grace beautiful fairways and  green complexes and abundant wild life that included wild turkeys, foxes, deer and eagles. His courses were beautiful and sparkled in their settings. I remember we stopped on one of our tours and he asked me to look back at the tee we had just left.  He said, one of his challenges in designing golf holes was to have them look just as beautiful looking back at the tee and they did looking forward to the green.

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Photo by Ursula Owens

Otto created Garland’s facilities with huge timbers that provided for beauty and amazing strength. They were spectacular in their setting

money left over to buy a jet. For a year or so, they ran an ad in Southeast Michigan, that you could be on a Garland tee in 28 minutes from the Pontiac airport. Joe Falvey, former Michigan PGA Executve Director was hired to develop the fly-in business from the airport and staffed Garland’s office/hangar. I took a fam trip ride on the jet with Jack Saylor of the Detroit Free Press and a couple of other writers. Twenty eight minutes later we had been moved by bus from the Garland runway to a golf course with an ebullient Ron Otto welcoming us to the first tee. It was a very, Ron Otto fishes in the Cayman Islands. very thrilling and exciting experiand were an important ingredient ence.  Unfortunately, the economin the Garland ambiance.  It was ics did not work out and the plane rumored that when Otto could not get the timbers he wanted when he was sold. But, what a day it was. wanted them from the Otto had another vision, which logging/lumber company, he spoke to his life of outdoor advenbought the company and moved ture.  A powerboat sailor who built his needs to the front of the his own boats, he also trekked the line.  A few years ago, a chance meeting in a Traverse City bar with world in his quest for hunting and the salesman who had to say no to fishing experiences.  The Garland restaurant featured many of the troOtto, seemed to confirm this tale. phies that Otto had acquired on his hunting expeditions. He thought a Garland, like Boyne Mountain, big game hunting lodge would be had its own airplane runway, with a strip just over a mile long.  When just the ticket for enticing big time Otto cashed out of the garage door hunters to the thousands of acres available at Garland.  He fenced in business he owned, he began to build Garland. He also had a litlle a substantial part of his property

We also talked about, one of his favorite resorts, The American Club, owned by Herb Kohler. The American Club was a five star resort and also featured four jawdropping Pete Dye courses. The American Club was the benchmark to which Otto held Garland and he really wanted that fifth star.  Herb Kohler and Ron Otto became friends and exchanged visits to each other’s property.   Otto’s dream to get that coveted fifth star rating remained elusive and he had to settle for four.

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and imported some trophy animals for hunters to hunt. While not privy to the ROI statement, I assumed that this project was not an idea whose time had come, but rather a project that had a massive and negative hit to Garland’s bottom line.

There are hundreds of Ron Otto stories as he profoundly touched so many lives. This has been only one of them. Au Revoir, Ron Otto.

Photo by Ursula Owens

Otto’s dream at Garland slowly turned into a nightmare as the economy soured and money grew scarce. Otto was too extended in his debt to weather the economic morass and he was forced to sell his beloved resort.  It was a crushing blow for Otto and his entire family.  The family legacy was now in other hands. Last August, I called Otto, who at the time was living on an island in the St. Lawrence River during

the summer months and Florida in the winter. The purpose of my call was to arrange an interview specifically about his role in designing the Garland golf courses.  His reception to the interview was positive and he seemed eager to meet.  However, the timeline did not work out as he was leaving for Spain to visit with his son and was going to be gone at the time I was available.  We then decided to get together in Florida during March of this year. Unfortunately, cancer has its own timeline and our meeting would never take place.

Ron Otto hikes Jackson Hole in 1996.

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” -- Jack London Quote submitted by Ron Otto’s daughter, Ursula.

- MG -


Collegiate Spotlight

Madonna Crusaders Capture Two WHAC Titles and Aim for Further Success this Spring

Photo courtesy of Madonna University

By Chris Lewis

Madonna University Golf Team, 2011

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ver since Madonna University hired Steve Mato as the head coach of its men’s golf team back in 2006, he has established a lofty goal for each of his players – to win the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference (WHAC) on a regular basis.

Chris Lewis “All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” ~ Orison Swett Marden, writer 16

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And his team’s past results truly speak for themselves. In 2009 and 2010, his squads captured back-to-back WHAC championships.

During his first season as head coach, the Madonna Crusaders finished second in the WHAC championship and won their very first tournament as a team in the entire history of the golf program – all within a matter of months. Yet, Coach Mato, who previously served as head coach of Franklin High School’s varsity golf teams for 14 years, is still determined to achieve even further goals this spring….and beyond.

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“I believe there are many talented golfers in the state of Michigan who will continue to join our team,” Mato said. “And I expect to have a team in place once again who will compete for the conference championship.”

Crusaders Capture 2011 Bill Bockwitz Collegiate Invitational During its fifth tournament of the fall season, the Crusaders celebrated a victory at the Bill Bockwitz Collegiate Invitational, which was hosted by Spring Arbor University.

But how did Coach Mato’s current squad perform last fall? Do they have enough potential to become future WHAC contenders?

Madonna Wins Second WHAC Jamboree of the 2011 Fall Season

Photo courtesy of Madonna University

To answer such questions, the following article will focus on Madonna’s most successful finishes in last fall’s tournaments, including its two victories, which occurred within a fiveday span in September.

Contested at Cascades Golf Course, a 6,651yard-long, par-73 layout located in Jackson, Michigan and designed in 1929, the tournament featured seven WHAC teams, including host Spring Arbor, which finished third, and Cornerstone University, which finished in second place.

Led by senior Vince Carango’s two consecuSenior Vince Carango led the Madonna University Golf tive rounds of 73, Team to victory at the Bill Bockwitz Collegiate Madonna University Invitational closed the tournament On September 19th, with a two-day total of from beginners to the most seathe Crusaders won their very first 604 in order to win the event by soned amateurs. However, sophotournament of the fall – the seafive shots – its second victory in more Drew Mossoian did not seem five days. son’s second WHAC Jamboree. to take notice as he fired an evenFeaturing nine WHAC members, par round of 72 in order to receive including the likes of Davenport individual honors and lead his University and Siena Heights Outstanding University, the Jamboree was held team to a victory. With the win, the Play, Close Calls at Colonial Golfers Club, which is Crusaders claimed first place in the WHAC standings, at least for the based in Harrod, Ohio. While the team’s two victories time being. were, beyond the shadow of a The club, a narrow, 6,678-yarddoubt, the Crusaders’ most spectaclong course that features more than ular moments last fall, the squad half a dozen water hazards, tends played consistently well throughto test golfers of all skill levels, 18

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out the entire duration of the season. In addition to the team’s mid to late September stretch, in which it earned two hard-fought wins, the Crusaders also finished in second place once, in third place on three occasions, and in fourth place twice. In fact, the team did not finish any worse than fourth in each of the tournaments in which it participated. Led by junior Andy Myers, Madonna finished second at the third WHAC Jamboree of the season, which occurred two days after its victory in the second jamboree. Myers shot a three-over par 75 at Coyote Creek Golf Club, a private course located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. All nine contenders struggled at the difficult members-only club, except for Davenport University, which defeated Madonna by 15 strokes. Nevertheless, the Crusaders still finished three shots ahead of Siena Heights University, while the team’s two seniors, Nick Sears, of Clio, Michigan, and Vince Carango, of Lawton, Michigan, shot identical rounds of five-overpar 77, considered quite respectable at the demanding Coyote Creek layout.

6,357-yard-long course designed by Phil Mickelson’s former instructor, Rick Smith, Madonna finished with a two-day total of 550, a score which was only surpassed by two universities – Grand View and Marian. One month later, during the WHAC Jamboree, Madonna trailed only Davenport University and Siena Heights University by seven and four shots, respectively. Each of the teams third-place finishes were certainly respectable and could be considered “building blocks” for the future success of the program. Yet, in spite of such welldeserving finishes, one of the team’s less successful outings is likely to be remembered more than any other tournament this spring, aside from the Crusaders’ two victories, of course. During the Olivet College Lou Collins Memorial Tournament, which occurred on September 2nd and 3rd, Vince Carango, one of the team’s most experienced members, arguably played the best golf of his longstanding career at Madonna.

In the meantime, Madonna’s two third-place finishes were recorded on August 29th at the Crusader Classic and on September 29th at the fourth WHAC Jamboree.

By shooting rounds of 68 and 71, Carango defeated all golfers in the field and earned medalist honors. Even though the team only finished in fourth-place, nine shots behind Calvin College, Coach Mato believes that Carango’s performance will be remembered long after he graduates this May.

During the Crusader Classic, which was hosted at The Treetops Resort’s Tradition course, a

“For me, Vince’s performance at Bedford was my favorite memory of the entire season,” Mato said.

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“He even set a new tournament record!” Truly, it was a tournament that will not only be celebrated by Carango in the future, but by his fellow teammates and coach as well.

Pride and Recognition Despite each of his players’ consistent, fruitful careers, Coach Mato is most satisfied with his team members’ performances away from the golf course. Mato believes that during these times, in which they focus on their educations and future careers, students are able to utilize their talents and perform to the best of their abilities, in order to achieve their ultimate collegiate goals by earning their diplomas. “I am most proud of my players when I see them walk across the stage and receive their diploma. Each year, my team members and I have so many stories and memories that can we share together – even after they graduate,” said Mato. He added, “Those are the moments that I will always remember from each of the players and teams I have been fortunate enough to have known and coached throughout the years.” For more information about Madonna University’s wide selection of athletic programs, please visit http://www.madonnacrusaders.com/. - MG •

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What’s Happening at the Golf Shows By Art McCafferty

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Southwest Michigan Golf Show The Southwest Show was new this year, as the Lansing Golf Show, was discontinued due to low attendance the past few years. It was hoped that this new location would draw locally and also attract some of the Michiana and Chicago markets. The setting was the Kalamazoo County Expo Center, located near freeway ramps and close to the city.

Our video features Randy Ballinger of Walnut Creek GC in Northern Indiana, Larry Bowden of Marsh Ridge Resort, which is celebrating 20 years in the golf business, Brad Dean from Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa; Travis Kamm of LochenHeath Golf Course, Alan Ballard of Treetops Resort, and Lowell Weaver of the Medalist Golf course. While, the general consensus of vendors indicated that the show

Photo by Art McCafferty

or many of us who forgot what winter was all about, quick moving storms brought snow, wind and freezing temperatures to early show goers at both the Southwest and West Michigan Golf Shows. While it was a tough start in both cases, the skies cleared, temperatures remained tolerable, and by the end of the shows thousands had turned out and enjoyed what they experienced.

West Michigan Golf Show 20

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was a little disappointing on attendance, it certainly deserves another year. Better weather and word of mouth from people who did attend should add more golfers next year.

The West Michigan Golf Show just completed its 24th year and is busy preparing for its Silver Anniversary in 2013. Certainly , one thing has been consistent in the past 24 years, is the attention they pay to golf instruction. Each year, they bring in top golf instructors from around the country to headline the show. Past years, have include Rick Smith and Jim Flick to name a few. Our video includes cameos from, show headliner John Novosel Jr., Kevin McKinley of Treetops, Scott Hebert of Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, Todd Campbell, new GM of Forest Dunes, This year, John Novosel Jr. (http://youtube.com/watch?v=o8R7 p9dzV_s) &  Mike Shannon provided the main ingredient for the show, while Michigan golf professionals Jason Guss, of Treetops; Patti Butcher, of the Blythefield Golf Academy;  Scott Hebert, of the Grand Traverse Resort Golf Academy;  Judy Mason, of Michaywe and Treetops (http://michigangolfer.tv/2011show

Photo by Art McCafferty

West Michigan Golf Show

Randy Ballinger, Walnut Creek Golf Club s/judy_mason/), Brian Natzel, of The Golf Academy at Swan Lake; and Brian O’Neill of Boyne, supplied the local touch. Jason Guss has rejoined the instructional staff at Treetops, after a year hiatus at the Otsego Club. When Guss made the move last year, he had no idea that the resort would be put up for sale and that his new school would be so shortlived.  Guss, who has been mentored by Rick Smith for more than a decade, seems to be happy with the move back. Scott Hebert, Head Golf Professional at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa and one of Michigan’s best golfers, was excited about the formation of the Grand Traverse Resort Golf Academy. Hebert is taking over both the winter

Video: Southwest Michigan Golf Show

http://youtube.com/watch?v=H7EJK_7LPdI

and summer golf instructional programs as the Jim McLean Golf School is now history. Treetops dominated the golf show as their presence was everywhere.  GM Barry Owens, now in his second year, joined Director of Golf Kevin McKinley in continuing to create buzz and golf rounds with their planning.  Their Hole in One contest had a new wrinkle this year, as the hole was a replica of the 11th hole on the Fazio course.  There were long lines each day with golfers winning a free round if they could hit and stay on the green. If you put one inside the circle, you got invited back for a chance at $25,000. Incidentally, the closest to the pin in the shootout contestant just missed on his quest for the $25,000 Hole in One

Video: West Michigan Golf Show

http://youtube.com/watch?v=dQ-37tK4aJM

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McKinley indicated that the field for 4th edition of the highly sucessful Treetops Cup has nearly filled for the American side. He needs another 25-30 Canadians to fill out their field (http://youtube.com/watch?v=lSvjd ttVPk0). We videotaped the tournament last year and it was a hoot (http://michigangolfer.tv/2011show s/treetops_cup/).  

Photo by Art McCafferty

Contest prize money as the shot hit the green, bounced just short of the hole, and rolled away.

Larry Bowden, Marsh Ridge

Todd Campbell, formerly the golf professional at Garland, is now the General Manager of the Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon. Campbell indicated that they are building on course lodging, which will be finished and ready for staying and playing in 2013.  The new Head Golf Professional at Forest Dunes is Donny Fisher. (http://forestdunesgolf.com) Representatives of the 2012 Senior PGA Championship Presented by Kitchen Aid, were on hand, selling tickets for this “major” tournament in Michigan. It will be played on the new Jack Nicklaus Harbor Shores course. Mark your calendar for May 22-27

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Photo by Art McCafferty

McKinley also talked about the upcoming Patriot Day Shootout this Labor Day weekend (http://youtube.com/watch?v=U5J Qp7TpmDM) and how it had raised scholarship money for children who lost a parent in the Iraq or  Afghanistan wars. (http://michigangolfer.tv/2011shows/treetops_p atriot/)   

Travis Kamm, LochenHeath Black Bear, designed by Mark Sauger, is Michigan’s only 19-hole golf course.  The Head Golf Professional is Jack Clark, who has been with the club, almost since its start and the owner is Rick Babbitt.  (http://golfblackbear.net)

numbers last year and is looking to continue that trend. Their new promotional material, featuring the photography of Brian Walters, makes you want to book a round as soon as you see just how gorgeous this course is.

LochenHeath Golf Club (http://youtube.com/watch?v=VEre gc40CBk), now fully off the endangered species list with the deft handling of GM Mike Husby (http://michigangolfer.tv/2011show s/lochenheath/), did box office

Marsh Ridge Resort is celebrating the 20th anniversary of both of their courses. The Natural is a Jerry Matthews design, that has been played heavily since it came on line.  The Marsh Ridge course is a Mike Husby design, one of

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Michaywe, which features head professional, Judy Mason, is one of the Gaylord Golf Mecca’s most storied courses. Michaywe is  a Don Childs design. He recently returned, after 20 years, to give this beauty a few tucks here and there to keep it young and vibrant. Gary Koenes, the new President of the Michigan Section PGA,

Photo by Art McCafferty

two in the Gaylord Golf Mecca. Besides the Gaylord Golf Mecca’s 25th of the month deals, Marsh Ridge features some of the lowest stay and play prices in Northern Michigan. They also feature Memorial Day and Labor DAy Madness outings, which are a lot of fun for everyone.

Treetops Patriot Golf Day Shootout feels that the tide has turned and that golf is coming back from this devastating downturn. He is excit-

ed about the new look and address for their website. He is also excited about the new 73rd Senior PGA Championship Presented by Kitchen Aid that will be played on the new Nicklaus course at Harbor Shores. (http://youtube.com/ results?search_ query=harbor+shores+glsp). Buck’s Run GC, one of Jerry Matthew’s best designs, was represented once again by Head Golf Professional Jon Conklin. The course is close to the Soaring Eagle Casino and services some of their clientele. It’s clubhouse offers one of the best views of a golf course in Michigan. We put this issue to bed before the Michigan Golf Show held its annual get together. We will cover that event in the Michigan Golfer News. Stay Tuned. - MG -

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Collegiate Spotlight

Northwood University Timberwolves Relish an Unforgettable Fall 2011 Season

Photo courtesy of Northwood University

By Chris Lewis

Northwood University golf team wins the Northwood Invitational.

N

early 50 years ago, Northwood University’s men’s golf team was initiated as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). From 1964 until the mid-1990s, Northwood competed against – and defeated – some of the NAIA’s most elite colleges and universities. Around 1995, the NCAA invited the team to join its Great Lakes

Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), an offer in which it could not deny. Around this time, in order to help the Timberwolves become regular contenders within the NCAA, David Turner was hired as the team’s head coach. Throughout the last 14 seasons, he has proven that he is more than capable of succeeding in his current role.

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With seven appearances in the NCAA Super Regional since 1997, the Timberwolves have not only become contenders, but champions, in recent years. For Coach Turner, his greatest achievement as head coach occurred back in 2002, when the team captured its first Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Championship in the •

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entire history of the program. He was subsequently named the GLIAC Coach of the Year. “We won that championship at The Meadows, Grand Valley State’s home course. The team also won the Ashland University Invitational and the Wayne State Invitational that fall,” said Turner. “To cap off the season, they finished third at the NCAA Super Regional.” There is little doubt that Coach Turner has helped Northwood’s men’s golf program become highly competitive in recent years. But, will the team’s success likely continue in the future? And, how is Coach Turner preparing his current squad for a successful spring campaign – one that will hopefully include yet another appearance in the NCAA Super Regional?

Looking Back: A Rewarding, Memorable Fall Season Coach Turner is confident that his present team is more than capable of qualifying for this year’s NCAA Super Regional event, which will occur on May 9th; in fact, he believes his current squad is the most consistent that he has ever led. “This year’s team had the best fall season in the history of the program,” Turner said. “We were in the final group in nearly every tournament for the second day of competition. It was so nice to be in the mix and to regularly contend for tournament victories.” The most memorable tournament of the Timberwolves’ Fall 2011 season was undoubtedly its triumph at the Northwood 26

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Invitational, which was held at Midland’s Currie West Golf Course from September 17th – 18th. Although the Timberwolves had not captured a tournament victory in more than six years prior to the Northwood Invitational, there was certainly no evidence of a winless streak during the final round of the tournament, as Northwood shot a 289 for a four-shot victory over Ferris State University and Ashland University. Sophomore Gilles Medale, a native of Valence D’Agen, France, led all Northwood scorers with rounds of 73 and 70 – a one-underpar total of 143 for the 36-hole tournament. In addition, he individually finished in second-place – out of 89 competitors. “That was our best match by far this past fall,” Turner said. “The team’s final round of 289 on the difficult Currie West course was a tremendous achievement.” In addition to ending its sixyear-long winless streak, the team finished fourth at the Al Watrous Memorial Invite and at the BLIAC Championships. The Al Watrous Memorial Invite was contested at the 6,880yard-long Bay City Country Club from September 10th – 11th. The Timberwolves, who were led by senior Grant Peffer’s rounds of 72 and 71, finished 14 strokes behind Ashland University, who dominated the championship and won by 11 strokes overall. Meanwhile, upon the conclusion of the 2011 GLIAC Championship, Northwood only trailed Grand

Valley State University, Tiffin University, and Wayne State University. Senior Matt Ostby’s 71, 74, and 75 led all Northwood scorers. Ostby actually finished in thirdplace, as 60 golfers participated in the event, which was held at East Lansing’s Eagle Eye Golf Club.

A Promising Future As Coach Turner prepares for his team’s upcoming spring season, as well as next fall’s campaign, he believes his squad’s positive momentum will only progress. “We will be younger next year, but I do have some transfer students coming in to help replace the seniors we will lose after May,” Turner said. “I’m also really excited about our current recruiting efforts. I think we’re going to have some quality underclassmen talent next fall.” He continued, “Also, the team’s top two golfers, junior Blair Turner and Gilles Medale will be back to lead the team. I believe Northwood’s golf program will continue to regularly contend for tournaments this spring and well after.” Editor’s Note: Northwood’s upcoming Spring 2012 schedule has been posted on its athletics website. To view the entire schedule, please visit http://timberwolves.gonorthwood.com/mgolf/. Also, for more information about Northwood University, as well as its wide selection of athletic programs, please visit http://northwood.com.

MICHIGAN GOLFER MAGAZINE

- MG -


Photo courtesy of Kendall Golf Academy

Photo by Jennie McCafferty

Photo by Carter Sherline / Frog Prince Studios

Smith, Mancour, Seltzer and Van Ess Elected to Michigan Golf Hall of Fame

Rick Smith (r) with Phil Mickelson

R

ick Smith, Larry Mancour and Jack Seltzer, all PGA professionals, and Grand Rapids senior amateur Jack Van Ess, who vowed to his parents that he never would play on Sunday, will be inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame on May 20 at Michigan State’s University Club. The Michigan Golf Foundation also will present a special award to MSU’s Turf Team from the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences for its outstanding work in improving the quality of golf course turf statewide and internationally.

Larry Mancour

Jack Seltzer

he multi-talented Smith worked as an assistant professional in Lakeland, Fla., and taught collegian Lee Janzen who went on to win two United States Open championships, and also taught PGA Tour players Rocco Mediate and Billy Andrade.

ahead to build a unique par three. It became Treetops, the site of the Par 3 Shootout on ESPN that featured the greatest players in the game including Lee Trevino who made a million dollar ace in 2007.

T

Smith returned to his native Michigan in 1986. As the new golf director at Sylvan (now Treetops) Resort in Gaylord and after overseeing the opening of its Robert Trent Jones course, Smith talked owner Harry Melling into hiring Tom Fazio to do a second course. Then Melling gave Smith the go-

MICHIGAN GOLFER MAGAZINE

With those successes Melling, who joked he’d have a course for every day of the week, had Smith design two 18 hole courses and Treetops became a nationally recognized resort. Smith furthered that along by developing and hosting Golf Channel’s Big Break golf show. His work at Arcadia Bluffs has made that Lake Michigan-side course a target for golf’s big game hunters. •

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A good player himself but more interested in teaching, Smith, 54, has worked with Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Jack’s son Gary, Matt Kuchar and John Daly.

F

lint native Mancour, 77, is also multi-talented. He taught with Tony Lema at Golden Gate Fields driving range in California, built the second nine holes of Lake Tahoe Country Club, won the Arizona Open and played the PGA Tour. Mancour returned to Michigan to play in the Buick Open and he stayed and built Grand Blanc Golf Club, then added nine at the Flint Elks where he was professional for 20 years. He rescued the Buick Open when General Motors dropped the tournament. With local Buick dealers Mancour started the Little Buick Open in 1969. It drew players and fans and led to the rebirth of the Buick in 1977. Mancour started as a caddie at 11 and never forgot junior golfers. He hosted the American Junior Golf Association’s first tournament in Michigan in 1985. Mancour also designed nationally-recognized Dunmaglas Golf Club in Charlevoix and Chestnut Valley in Harbor Springs.

PGA, Senior PGA, Senior Open, Northern Michigan PGA champion, winner of seven team championships, National PGA Quarter Century and Senior championships in the PGA Winter Series in Florida.

J

ack Seltzer, 60, is another Flint native who started young. He won the Class A high school championship in 1967 while at Flint Southwestern and was Flint Junior champion in 1969, junior college champion in 1971 and 1972 and has won all three major state championships, the Open, the Match Play and the PGA. He played on the 1983 PGA Cup team against Great Britain and Ireland at Muirfield, Scotland, and won his singles match. Seltzer won all four Michigan PGA team championships in 1978, each with a different partner. He’s been four-time State Pro-Am champion, three-time Pro-Pro and twice Senior-Junior champion. Seltzer’s top career shot came in the final round on the ninth hole of the Bear in the 1987 Michigan Open. The ninth is all carry over water and Seltzer aced the hole. A television camera caught it and it went national as Seltzer rolled on to win. Seltzer laughed afterward that the cup wasn’t supposed to be.

Mancour’s playing credentials include Michigan Player of the Year twice, Golf Professional of the Year, winner of the Michigan

A seagull deposited a souvenir at the back right of the green and when

Michigan Golf Hall of Fame

http://michigangolfer.tv/2005shows/ghf/

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the hole was cut in the morning, the workman mistook the seagull’s mark for the assigned cup spot. A longtime club professional in Hillsdale, Seltzer also spent time in South Florida in Stuart and was South Florida PGA Player of the Year in 1984, South Florida PGA champion in 1983 and Dixie Section champion in 2008. He currently is at the Kendall Academy and over his years of teaching he’s had 32 high school All State players, 11 Michigan Dream Team players and one Miss Golf Michigan. Jack Van Ess is the most unusual of all 98 members of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame – he didn’t play on Sunday and consequently only played tournaments that ended on Saturday. Nevertheless, Van Ess, 84, has had a sterling career. He’s won the State Senior Open and Senior Amateur, the only player to make that double. He won the Dale Morey Society of Seniors event in South Carolina and World Super Seniors 80 and over in North Carolina. He won the club championship at Greenridge, which morphed into Egypt Valley, 10 times over four decades. Van Ess played in the U.S. Amateur in California, the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst, the Western Amateur at Point O’Woods, the Senior Amateur in Texas and Senior Open in Minnesota. He led the Western Michigan Amateur five times going into Sunday and then withdrew. Never on Sunday. Van Ess ended Dan Pohl’s

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Michigan Amateur defense in 1976 when he beat the Mt. Pleasant bomber, 3 and 2 in the second round. Pohl did win the Amateur again in 1977 and then turned professional and is a Hall of Fame member. Van Ess was inducted into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 joining John Barnum, Lynn Janson, Buddy Whitten and Mark Wilson who also are members of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.

The special award to MSU’s Turf Team marks the second time the Michigan Golf Foundation has recognized an important contribution to golf in the state. The Buick Open was honored in 2008 for its half century of bringing the game’s best players to Michigan. MSU’s Turf Team is on call for every course in the state. It’s golf research from the dirt to the green carpets of fairways and greens, treating diseases, finding proper nutrients, fertilizers and proper water use. Not only has the team

Ubiquitous Michigan Golf

http://glsp.com

-

been on demand in Michigan, it has answered requests from 26 countries on six of the world’s seven continents and is part of a degree program in China. For more information on this year’s induction ceremony, contact Loretta Larkin at llarkin@michigan-golf-foundation.com or (248) 719-0650. Taken from a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame release. - MG -

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Gaylord Golf Mecca and the Michigan Golfer-- a Partnership for 25 Years

Photo by Kevin Frisch

By Art McCafferty

Gaylord Country Club

W

hen thinking about a way to comment on the 25th Anniversary of the Gaylord Golf Mecca, the thought occurred to us to create a video series to highlight this rich history. With that said, this is the first installment of a series of videos created to  celebrate the Mecca.   In this installment, we are bringing you videos on current Gaylord Golf Mecca members;

The Loon, The Black Forest, The Gaylord Country Club and a former one, Ron Otto’s Garland.

Gaylord Country Club ‘In the Beginning” The Gaylord Country Club sold its course in the mid 70’s to some folks who sold part of it to KMart and other businesses in the area. There are still parts of it that are

Gaylord Country Club - “In the Beginning”

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ_ljm3Xg-A) 30

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recognizable, including former fairways that are now part of the elk compound located at the local Elk Clubs. They in turn bought some land west of I-75 on M-32 and created an eighteen hole layout. The land featured a  farm that became the first five holes and a forest that hid the remaining 13 holes.  Instead of talking more about it you can take a video course tour (http://michigangolfer.tv/ 2009shows/gaylordcc/). Right: photo of Black Forest, courtesy of Black Forest

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When looking about for a spokesperson for Gaylord CC we ran into J.T. Aude, the Head Professional at the golf show.  We could not have chosen a better representative. J.T. Aude, Head Professional at Gaylord CC, has been working in the Gaylord Golf Mecca, before it was the Gaylord Golf Mecca. He started picking up range balls, working the bag rack and all those Golf 101 choirs that are rungs in the professional golf career ladder.  He has worked at Treetops, Michaywe, The Loon,

Marsh Ridge and the Otsego Club.  J.T. tells it like it was in this historical video

The Loon Golf Club - “The Loon on a Stormy Fall Day - Pure Michigan”  The Loon Golf Course was designed by Mike Husby, with later tweaking by Butch Harmon.  Our show was centered on a visual opportunity we had

The Loon Golf Club - “The Loon on a Stormy Fall Day - Pure Michigan”

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5683HJROBLc)

during a Gaylord Golf Mecca Fam trip. We had just finished up a round of golf and were enjoying some  adult beverages on the veranda of one of the terrific new cottages at The Loon, when a drop dead gorgeous weather system rolled through the area. The storm was fast moving and it required some quick camera work to capture the features of such an amazing sky.  We added the score of “Silver Sky” , by Jamie Fallon and dressed it up with some image assets from The Loon’s website. Here it is, “The Loon on a Stormy Fall Day - Pure Michigan” Hopefully, this will send you to their very impressive website to


Photo by Art McCafferty

The Loon book a round or two. Enjoy. We also plan to offer additional Michigan Golfer Television programming on the Gaylord Golf Mecca in the coming year.

Black Forest Golf Course In this segment, we bring you the story of Michigan’s own Tom Doak and the building of Black Forest. Doak began his career by designing the now closed High Pointe Golf Club  in Williamston and then Black Forest in Gaylord.  Doak, who was mentored by Pete Dye and co-designed the

Sebonack course (http://www.sebonack.com/) with Jack Nicklaus, is now on the A list of golf designers. His company Renaissance Golf  is one of eight design companies that are awaiting word on whether they have been selected to design the new olympic golf course for the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Olympics. It is wonderful that Michigan has one of the great international golf design firms, Renaissance Golf,  within its borders.  However, we need to mention that other noted national golf architects Albanese & Lutzke and DeVries, also make their home in Michigan. Doak indicated in the interview that his signature bunkers were

Tom Doak’s Black Forest

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCCaenUorno)

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first developed at the Black Forest and now are scattered throughout the world.

Garland “Ron Otto’s Garland” In the 25th year of the Gaylord Golf Mecca, Garland is not a member. It has been newly purchased and is under new management.  Also, this is not the first time that Garland has not been a member, as they experimented with their own version of  a CVB for a couple of years in  the late 90’s.  While there is reason to leave them out of any of the Gaylord Golf Mecca festivities, the power of the  Mecca  was certainly

Ron Otto’s Garland

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykt-AJVKJUk)

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fueled by the presence of Garland and their four award winning courses. Our video chooses to honor the Garland that had been a member and its CEO and owner, Ron Otto. Otto passed away in 2011 after having sold the resort in 2009.   Our upcoming 2012 Michigan Golfer issues will continue the Gaylord Golf Mecca theme with commentary and videos: • “Wilderness Valley and the Building of Black Forest” - With Tom Doak, Dave Smith and Jack Berry

• “Marsh Ridge & The Amazing Jack Bott” - With Mike Husby and Jack Berry • “Black Bear & The Legend of the 19th Hole” - With Rick Babbitt Jack Clark and Jack Berry • “The Natural and Marsh Ridge Courses Turn 20” - With Larry Bowden and Jack  Berry • “Playing  Michaywe and the Other of the  Mecca” With Judy Mason and Jack Berry • “Golf Instruction and Experience for the Ladies in the Mecca” With Judy Mason and

Jennie McCafferty • “Otsego Club: The Classic, The Tribute & The Mecca” - With Keith Gornick and Jack Berry • “First it was the Gaylord Autombile and then the Gaylord Golf Mecca - A History” - with Paul Beachnau and Jack Berry • “Gaylord Golf Mecca  -The Care and Feeding of the  National Media” - With Dave Richards and Jack Berry • “The Next 25 Years - Creating a  Digital Gaylord Golf Mecca” With Barry Owens and Jack Berry - MG -

Photo courtesy of Garland Resort

“• Designing and Building The

Loon Golf Club” - With Mike Husby and Jack Berry

Reflections, Garland MICHIGAN GOLFER MAGAZINE

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Slice of Life Greg Johnson Files Final Story at Grand Rapids Press

Photo courtesy of PGA of America

By Terry Moore

Greg Johnson (left) with his writing buddies, Jack Berry (center) and Terry Moore

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n a distinguished career that’s still a work in progress, award-winning sports journalist and golf writer Greg Johnson filed his final stories this past 34

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week for The Grand Rapids Press. As the case with many of his colleagues over the past few years, Johnson’s position was eliminated as the 120-year-old

newspaper drastically downsized its operations in the new digital age. Although the ending was both sobering and bittersweet, Johnson harbored no regrets and

MICHIGAN GOLFER MAGAZINE


remained upbeat about his future.

said Johnson.

“I loved my job and loved being a sportswriter,” said Johnson in a phone interview from Tampa where he covered Michigan State’s dramatic bowl win over Georgia. “Now entering a different phase in my career, I’ll be taking the time to investigate some of the interesting opportunities presented to me. But even if I do something completely different, I still want to write.”

According to Johnson, the Masters Tournament is also something separate and extra special. “Covering it is both a joy and a grind. It’s an amazing and beautiful place but the demands and stress of getting the stories right at Augusta are difficult for outsiders to understand,” said Johnson. “I liked how Dan Jenkins described being at the Masters as an ‘Alice in Wonderland-type experience.’”

Thank goodness for that last remark because Greg Johnson is a gifted writer with a large and loyal following of appreciative readers, especially golfers. For over 25 years, he’s covered golf for The Press and made sure champions of local events received their fair share of acclaim in the newspaper. “Honestly, I had as much fun covering golfers such as Bob Sakocius and Tom Werkmeister at the West Michigan Amateur as I did going to the Buick Open and watching Tiger Woods,” said Johnson. “At local events it so easy to get around and besides they gave me a cart,” he said laughing.

Even when he was far from home at such storied and lush venues as Augusta National, Johnson never lost his perspective as a local newspaper reporter. He invariably found a Grand Rapids angle for one of his sidebars or notebooks during Masters week. Over the years, he mentioned Mark Wilson, a local PGA golf professional who served as a rules official at the Masters, as well as notes about a host of other West Michigan golfers who found themselves inside the hallowed grounds past Magnolia Lane. “Early on I understood that I was very lucky to be the readers’ representative and so it was my job to see the tournament through their eyes. It wasn’t difficult to find local angles at the Masters; you just had to be open to them,” said Johnson. “And often the best stories found me.”

Although assigned to everything “from the Atlanta Olympics to a bocce ball tournament in downtown Grand Rapids,” Johnson says golf always had a special appeal. “I liked being around golf because of the people. There are good people in every sport but it’s something about the game—the decorum, the etiquette, the traditions—that separates golfers from the rest,”

On one occasion, a memorable story took root after Johnson learned a former Grand Rapids resident attending the Masters planned to honor his recently deceased best friend by tossing a

MICHIGAN GOLFER MAGAZINE

symbolic memento into the famed pond at Augusta’s 16th hole. I vividly recall how Johnson and the individual spoke for hours about his late friend and all the Masters had meant to him. Sharing the same rental home that year, I also know Johnson was up writing until the wee hours of the night, making sure the story reflected the poignant truth, the undying friendship and the muffled grief of the day. Like the best writing, it was crisp and lean, universal and touched the heart. “I’ve been fortunate to have learn so much from so many sportswriters,” said Johnson. “When I first started covering golf, Jack Saylor from the Detroit Free Press told me not to worry about my own golf skills. He quipped, ‘Heck, you don’t have to be dead to write a good obituary. Just observe the events, ask the right questions and write it down as you know it.’” Greg Johnson listened well to his mentors and colleagues as he acutely observed sport’s many arenas, asked the right questions, and then ably wrote it all down as he knew it. How fortunate are we, the readers, to have accompanied him on his journey. But heck, this is sounding like an obituary. In the here and now, Johnson’s impressive career is merely taking a detour.  Greg, see you around the bend. - MG •

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MICHIGAN GOLFER MAGAZINE

Michigan Golfer, Spring 2012  

A quarterly publication about Michigan Golf courses, Michigan golfers and Michigan golf events.

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