Michigan Golfer ON-LINE

Champions' Profile: Fossum & Reynolds
by Jack Saylor

Two more golfers played their way into Michigan's gallery of champions in the recent 40th renewal of the Michigan Medal Play championship and accompanying Horton Smith memorial tournament at Detroit Golf Club.

Bob Fossum of East Lansing captured the Horton Smith, the 36-hole portion in which the host club honors the memory of its legendary former pro and serves as the first half of the 72-hole spring event luring most of the state's foremost amateurs.

Fossum shot 73-68 to place his name on the trophy bearing an old putter used by Horton Smith, the first-ever Masters champion.

Fossum then yielded the third-round lead to Greg Reynolds of Grand Blanc, who out-lasted a classy field in cold, windy and wet weather to capture the Medal Play title for the second time.

He also won the MMP in 1982, then picked up the Horton Smith portion in '94.

Reynolds shot 73-69-74-68 in re-claiming a championship, whose trophy also includes such names as the legendary Chuck Kocsis, who won it six times before it was monopolized by Peter Green, who topped Kocsis' record with seven victories.

Others on the title roll are such all-time state standouts as Bob Babbish, Bud Stevens, Bill Albright, Randy Erskine and Randy Lewis.

The newest champions, Fossum and Reynolds, come from divergent golfing backgrounds and also possess dissimilar golfing styles.

It would have been shocking if Fossum, 35, had not become a good golfer.

His father, Bruce, was the long-time coach at Michigan State, for whom Bob played as a Spartan from 1981-85. Mary Fossum, Bob's mother, sports an even flossier playing resume than her husband.

She was a pioneer of women's professional golf with one of her accomplishments a victory over the vaunted Babe Zaharias.

"I guess I have good genes," Fossum said with a laugh. "Really, I was blessed to have two great people to learn from.

"To this day, my Mom is the best putter I've ever seen. But my dad usually had the last word on my game. If I had a problem, I'd usually go to my dad with it.

"They've got pictures of me hitting balls with plastic clubs when I was about 1-1/2 years old." Fossum was almost literally born to be in golf.

By contrast, Reynolds never took up the game until he was 23 and for the first 10 years was self-taught, with some journalistic help from Jack Nicklaus' "how-to" books.

For Reynolds, who wound up a three-stroke victor in the Medal Play over Craig Adams of Grand Haven (Fossum finished sixth), it was a long-awaited return to the top and an early birthday present for the GM engineer from Grand Blanc.

Reynolds, who turned 50 the week after his victory, grew up in Iowa, played basketball and baseball at Iowa State before graduating in '69.

His job moved him to Grand Blanc, where he's been ever since and also discovered golf. Finding team sports no longer available or viable, he made his way to a driving range, before even investing in golf clubs.

"When I started playing, I read all the Nicklaus stuff and taught myself that way," Reynolds recalled. "My first lesson was about 10 years later with Larry Mancour when he was at Flint Elks.

"I worked with him, but usually only when I couldn't get the ball airborne."

Later, Reynolds had the chance to work on his short game with the great Byron Nelson and just the week before his MMP victory, he played a match in Fuller Cup competition against Michigan Open champion Steve Brady and got a lesson -- both during the match and afterward.

"He really helped me with my putting," said Reynolds, who found a 5 and 4 whipping enlightening.

Fossum, meanwhile, was becoming a pro himself after graduation from MSU in 1986.

"I was a pro for five years and worked for Freddy Muller at Crystal Downs," Fossum said of the private club at Frankfort.

"I found there were too many good players and I didn't have time to work on my game. So I got my amateur card back in 1994."

Fossum reached the Sweet Sixteen of the Michigan Amateur last year and finished 15th in his first MMP a year ago, before winning the Horton Smith this time around."

He works now for a commodity investment firm in East Lansing and doesn't get to play that much.

"I was very surprised at winning the Horton Smith," said Fossum, whose name will be inscribed along with Horton champs like Green (six times); John and Tom Grace, Tommy Watrous, Steve Maddalena, Dave DeWulf, Josh Mondry and, of course, Reynolds.

"In addition to my job, we have two little kids -- two years old and one just four months," Fossum said. "So I have to help Mom around home."

Reynolds' only offspring is a 23-year-old son who obviously doesn't need that kind of attention and the freshly-graduated product of MSU caddied for his dad during the Medal Play victory.

Reynolds, a member at Flint GC, has always been known as one of the longer drivers around and that remains a strong suit of his game, along with iron play.

"I used to be longer than a lot of the players, but I'd say I'm just respectably long now," he said. "My iron play is good, but the short game was the weaker part of my game. I've been working with (Flint GC pro) Jeff Roth and he has really helped my short game."

Conversely, Fossum doesn't rank among the big hitters. "I don't hit it very far, but my short game keeps me in the ball game," he said.

As they say, it's different strokes for different folks -- like Fossum and Reynolds, but they both wound up with championship trophies. In Reynolds' Bag: Woods: Cobras Irons: Cobras. "I became friends many years ago with a guy that started Cobra Golf," Reynolds explained. "In fact, I'm playing irons that you can't buy in the pro shops yet." Putter: Odyssey Golf Balls: Titleist pro 100s. In Fossum's Bag: Woods: Two "older" TaylorMade metal woods. A 12-degree brassie and 16-degree four-wood. No driver. "I used the brassie since I was working at Crystal Downs," Fossum said. Irons: Mizuno MP 29s. Putter: Arnold Palmer model. "I've used it for 20 years," he said.

Golf Balls: Titleist 90 compressions.

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