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From 'No Name' to Defending Open Champion

By Kelly Hill

Grand Traverse Resort assistant pro Scott Hebert claims no home-course advantage for his victory in last year's Michigan Open. Hebert, 28, won the 72-hole event in record fashion as he fired a final-round 3-under 69 to finish with an 11-under 277 at The Bear. Hebert broke the tournament record set by Tom Gillis in 1994 by two strokes and collected more than $14,000 for his efforts.

"Being a pro there probably helped me but I also probably didn't have any more of an advantage than the guys that have played there for a long time," Hebert said. "There are guys that have been playing there for a long time and they know where to hit it and how the ball will bounce on that course."
This year's Michigan Open, scheduled for June 29 through July 2, will be the 17th consecutive state open played at Grand Traverse Resort and the 13th straight played on The Bear.
While Hebert claims no significant advantage, he did admit that his recent knowledge of the course could have helped him. "If there was any advantage," said Hebert, a native of Escanaba, "it was probably because I had played the course more recently than they had."
Hebert, who played five events on the Tommy Armour mini tour in Florida over the winter, believes his real advantage in the 1997 Michigan Open was his iron play. "I would say that my putting was the poorest part of my game that week," said Hebert, who returned to Michigan from Florida in late March. "I did hit my irons the way I had too, though," Hebert said. "That's what you have to do there at The Bear. Iron shots are at a premium there."

Hebert expects an increase in perceived pressure to greet him prior to this year's Michigan Open. "I imagine there will be a little more pressure leading up to it," Hebert said. "It is easier going into it a no-name rather than the defending champion."

One rookie at this year's Open will be KSL Recreation Corporation, the new owner of Grand Traverse Resort. With some of the country's best known resorts among its holdings, KSL Recreation Corp. plans to transform Michigan's largest resort into the Midwest's premier golf destination. Hosting the annual Michigan Open is an integral part of that plan, according to Irving Kass, Grand Traverse Resort's new general manager. "Our intention is to build upon the great things that have happened with the Michigan Open," Kass said. "We are meeting with the team from the Michigan PGA and the Detroit Newspapers (which sponsor the tournament) to see if there is any way we can elevate the Michigan Open.

"We think this is very important," Kass added. "The Michigan Open is a great state event and we want to be a part of it. We want to contribute to golf in the great state of Michigan."

The Michigan Open, which will feature a total purse of $110,000 this year, has pro-am dates set for Saturday and Sunday, June 27-28. Hebert won last year's Open with a scorecard showing 70-65-73-69-277 while East Lansing resident Bob Fossum earned low amateur honors with a 12-over 76-75-72-77-300.

Note: Scott Hebert has changed his clubs since winning the Michigan Open. Formerly in Hebert's bag: Callaway woods, Mizuno irons and a Pint Putter. Now in Hebert's bag: A Titleist 975-D driver, Titleist Tour Model irons (2-SW) and a Titleist putter.

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