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Another year, another new date for the Farmers Charity Classic, the Senior PGA Tour event played at Egypt Valley Country Club in Ada. This year, the 54-hole event is slated for Memorial Day weekend, with the three rounds set for Friday through Sunday, May 24-26. The tournament, which has been won each of the last two years by Marietta, GA resident, Larry Nelson, has now been played, one year or another, on the weekend of every major summer holiday.
Classes are over, so Andy Matthews can now afford his full attention to his golf game. Matthews, an Ada native who is the senior captain of the University of Michigan men's golf team, is preparing to defend the Michigan Amateur Championship he won last summer at Flint Golf Club. The Michigan Amateur, which is a test of endurance as much as it is shot-making, is scheduled this year for June 18-22 at the Country Club of Jackson.
Matthews will lead a field of the state's best amateurs into two rounds of stroke play, after which the field is cut to the low 64. Match play then begins, so by the time the 2002 Michigan Amateur Champion is crowned, he will have played eight rounds in five days. "My game is coming around, I have had some really good stretches of golf," Matthews said in early April, a week before the Wolverines concluded their spring semester.
Matthews defeated Brent Goik in the finals of last year's Michigan Amateur Championship. "That most definitely is a highlight of my career, no question about it," Matthews said. "That was the best week of golf in my career. It was an absolutely awesome week; there wasn't even an opportunity for anything to go wrong."
U-M's golf captain thinks he can win it again. "I am a better player than I was last summer, so there's no reason why I can't win it again," Matthews said. "When I look at my career over the last five or six years, something has happened every year that has 1-upped the year before. I can't be more excited about this summer."
Matthews expects to graduate from the University of Michigan in December, after which he plans to spend a month and a half in Australia. After that break, he plans to move to his parents' residence in Bonita Springs, Fla. and prepare for PGA Qualifying School. "The Michigan Amateur is mentally tiring and physically tiring," Matthews said. "You need to balance everything the entire week. Winning that tournament is a testament to your golf game, but it's also a testament to the physical condition you are in. You also have to be mentally strong and need a lot of desire to win a championship like that."
While the Michigan Amateur is scheduled to end on Saturday afternoon, June 22, the Michigan Open is slated to begin less than 36 hours later, on the morning of Monday, June 24, on The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme. Grand Rapids resident Scott Hebert, who has decided to stay a little closer to home this spring, is the defending Michigan Open champion. Hebert, 32, who now is working as an assistant pro at Sunnybrook Country Club in Jenison, is a former mini-tour player who has won four out of the last five Michigan Open titles. The knowledge he gained while serving as an assistant at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, as well as his attitude toward playing what arguably is the best course in the state, certainly has helped Hebert tame The Bear.
"I lost my spot to play so I'm not going back to the Hooters Tour or the Canadian Tour," Hebert said. "I have been traveling for the last three years, but now I have a good spot here at Sunnybrook and now I can stay home with my wife (Laurie)." The Open features four rounds of stroke play, with the field being cut to the low 70s and ties following the second round.
"I always look forward to the Open," Hebert said. "That's my favorite tournament around here because I have a lot of friends up there and it's a great golf course. A lot of people don't like to play that course, but I love that golf course. It seems good to me."
Hebert won last year's Open with an 11-under 277, one stroke ahead of Livonia amateur Stephen Polanski. If he is to win his fifth Open crown, Hebert will need to hone a swing this spring that might have grown a little rusty. "I haven't played now since my final hole at Tour school the last week of October," Hebert said in early April. "I'm going to be on a crash course, but I'll have plenty of time to practice."
July will feature the Ford Senior Players Championship and the Michigan PGA's Tournament of Champions. Allen Doyle is the defending champ at the Ford Senior Players, winning last year with a 15-under 273 at the TPC of Michigan. This year's event, which includes a purse of $2.5 million, with $375,000 going to the winner, is scheduled for July 8-14.
The Tournament of Champions, played on the Alpine and Monument courses at Boyne Mountain, features men, women, seniors and juniors, all of whom have been champions. Howell resident Shawn Koch, 25, won the event last year, on the first hole of a playoff with Meadowbrook Country Club pro Tom Harding.
August also will feature a pair of major championships, the annual Buick Open as well as the Michigan PGA Championship. Kenny Perry is the defending champ at the Buick, which is scheduled this year for Aug. 5-11 at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc. This $3.1 million tournament awards $594,000 to the winner. The Michigan PGA Championship is played on the Legend and Cedar River courses at Shanty Creek Resort in Bellaire. Jeff Roth, 44, the head pro at Knollwood Country Club in West Bloomfield, won it last year with an 18-under 198, which is believed to be the lowest score in the 81-year history of the tournament. Jeff Gniewek of Prestwick Village Golf Club in Highland finished second, nine strokes back. Roth has now won the Michigan PGA Championship three times and has nine Michigan majors to his credit. This year's championship is set for Aug. 19-21. MG
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