Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

Back to Boyne for T of C & PGA Events
By Kelly Hill

Brian Cairns, the 33-year-old assistant pro at Dearborn Country Club, did not want to play in last year's Michigan PGA Championship contested on the Moor and Ross courses at Boyne Highlands. Two days before the longest running professional golf event in Michigan was scheduled to begin, Cairns told his caddy, Paul Kolten, that he was going to withdraw from the tournament. "It was kind of a weird week," Cairns remembered. "I had been teaching a lot that week and I didn't really have a chance to play that much, so I told my caddy I was going to withdraw. I felt that bad about it."

Cairns now feels very good about his decision to not withdraw from last year's Michigan PGA championship as he tied a course record with a 65 on the Donald Ross Memorial and then went on to finish with 205 strokes, winning the tournament by a stroke over George Bowman and Tom Gieselman.

Upon receiving the Gilbert A. Currie Trophy after claiming his first major victory, Cairns commented, "It meant a lot to me to win among the people I read about 10-20 years earlier. And to get my name on the trophy with people like Walter Hagen and Jimmy Demaret... it was nice."

After finishing 10th and eighth in his first two Michigan PGA Championships, Cairns has no intention of withdrawing from this year's championship. He plans to defend his first major win when this year's state PGA championship is played Aug. 18-20 at Boyne Highlands. "Once I got up there last year I felt good," Cairns said. "The greens were great. On the back nine of the Moor course I started making some 20-footers and I said, 'Look what I found.' It was a great week and it's a great place." Cairns believes the site of the championship is one of the fairest for all players. "It's more friendly for my game," he said. "I also think it's one of the more fair courses to everyone, if you know the greens. You can hit a lot of right-to-left shots there so they are user-friendly courses for me."

Cairns has established a short game that has earned him the distinction as the consummate grinder. "I walk outside our pro shop and the first thing you come to is the putting green," Cairns said. "I can putt and chip all night waiting for the carts to come in. My long game will probably never be that great, so I work a lot on my short game. My short game can always get better." Cairns noted that such a short game is critical at Boyne Highlands, particularly on the Ross course. "On the Moor course you can be very aggressive with your tee shots," he said. "The short game is more important on the Ross course. There are some long par-4s and the greens are tougher so you've got to have a good short game on the Ross."

A Shelby Township native who spent eight years in Florida, Cairns returned to Michigan eight years ago and joined the Michigan Section in 1994. "I have played a lot of golf so far this year," Cairns said, "but maybe I should cut back some, that seems to work for me."

While Cairns will defend his Michigan PGA championship, Jeff Roth, the head professional at Flint Golf Club, will be unable to defend the two straight titles he has won at the Michigan Tournament of Champions. A scheduling conflict with his club's invitational tournament will keep Roth from playing in the $100,000 tournament scheduled for July 21-23 at Boyne Mountain Resort. "I do enjoy the ambiance up there," Roth said of Boyne Mountain. "It is real relaxed and you really feel like you are away from it all. There is a certain level of serenity that you get playing at Boyne and other Northern Michigan Resorts that is very comfortable to me."

Because the Tournament of Champions field consists of champions of sanctioned Michigan Section PGA events and features a wide range of professionals, amateurs, men, women, seniors and juniors, "Everyone feels like a winner to begin with," Roth said. "It's a little more casual."

Roth, who has also experienced some physical problems in recent months, fired a course-record 67 on the Monument last year on his way to his second consecutive title. It was also the second consecutive year in which Roth edged Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club pro Eric Booker for the crown. In 1995, Roth won a three-way playoff with Booker and Tim Hobby. Last year, Roth entered the final round one stroke behind Booker but then reeled off four straight birdies on the front side. His 70-73-67-210 put him at 6-under for the championship and gave him a two-stroke edge over Booker.

"Boyne Mountain is a nice place to play," Roth said. "I won't let this happen again," he said of his scheduling conflict. "I forgot to move my invitational back a week so I won't be able to play this year. I guess it's time to let somebody else win it."

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