Michigan Tourney Previews: Cairns, Harris set to defend Michigan majors
A rookie and a seasoned veteran are set to defend their championships this summer in a pair of major Michigan championships. Michael Harris, 23, a native of Troy who turned pro just in time for last year's U.S. Open, will defend his 2000 Tournament of Champions victory at Boyne Mountain and Brian Cairns, 37, who is the assistant pro at Orchard Lake Country Club, will defend the Michigan PGA Championship he won last year at Shanty Creek in Bellaire.
Harris turned pro last summer after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in business administration/finance. The co-medalist at the 1999 Big Ten Championship, Harris won eight tournament while playing for the Wolverines. He also won the 1999 Golf Association of Michigan medal play championship, but it was his 1995 Horton Smith victory that earned him a berth in the annual Tournament of Champions.
"When I was done with college I decided to move on and play pro and see what I could do," Harris said. "The Tournament of Champions was definitely my biggest win and was a good start to my career. It got me off and running. I like the competition in that tournament and it was a big boost of confidence for me, to know that I could play at that level."
The Detroit Newspapers Michigan PGA Tournament of Champions, with a purse of $100,000, will be held this year from July 16-18 on the Alpine and Monument courses at Boyne Mountain Resort. The T of C matches champions of all varieties against each other: men, women, seniors, juniors and amateurs all compete side-by-side. Yardage adjustments and varying tees allow for course equalization.
Harris edged Michigan Open champion Scott Hebert for last year's win. "Those are beautiful golf courses up there and they are in great shape," said Harris, who played in the Hooters Tour event in Indianapolis earlier this spring. "The (Alpine and Monument) courses are built on the mountain, so there is a lot more involved in playing those. You need to think more and prepare more. You have to know where everything is in relation to the mountain."
Harris, who spent the winter in Florida, planned to attempt to qualify for the Canadian Tour. In addition to defending his Tournament of Champions win, Harris also planned to play in this year's Michigan Open.
Cairns, who also won the Michigan PGA Championship in 1996, stayed in Michigan all winter as he and his wife, Gina, welcomed their second child and first daughter, Bryn. Their oldest child, Ian, is almost four years old. "I stayed home all winter and it probably hurt my game," Cairns joked.
Cairns said last summer's victory might not have been as memorable as his Ô96 win, but it was the highlight of a very successful season. "The first one is always the best one," he said, "but winning another stroke play tournament was very satisfying. I had a real good summer last year," Cairns continued. "I worked on my short game a lot harder, and maybe I got a little smarter. My mechanics are probably a little worse but my mind is better. I guess that comes with age."
This year's Michigan PGA Championship, presented by Detroit Newspapers and played for a purse of $80,000, will be held August 20-22 at Shanty Creek Resort. The year's biggest field of professionals competes on The Legend, a course designed by Arnold Palmer and Cedar River Golf Club, which was designed by Tom Weiskopf and opened two years ago.
"I love The Legend, it is one of the best two golf courses in the state," Cairns said. "It's old-fashioned and it's picturesque. The greens are easy to read too, which is different for a mountain course."
Sarnia to host Canadian Tour's Bayer Championship
The final full-field stop on the Canadian Tour, the Bayer Championship, is scheduled to visit Huron Oaks Golf Club in Sarnia, Ont. September 13-16. The Bayer, with a purse of $200,000, was won a year ago by New Zealander Steve Alker, who shot a 5-uner 67 in the final round to win by five strokes over Aaron Oberholser. Alker finished the four-day event 22-under after firing a -under 63 in the third round. That 63 is one stroke off the course record held by Canadian Tour player Danny Mijovic and former Huron Oaks pro Steve Bennett, who also competed in the tournament last year. Alker pocketed $36,000 for his victory.
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