100 Years Of The Michigan PGA Professional Championship Part 2
- 100 Years of the Michigan PGA: Part 1;
- 100 Years of the Michigan PGA: Part 2;
- 100 Years of the Michigan PGA Part 3;
- 100 Years of the Michigan PGA: Part 4
By Greg Johnson, Michigan PGA
Chick Harbert, whose real name was Melvin, hit the long ball, as in drives over 300 yards in an era well before metals and more were used in club production and he won the Michigan PGA Professional Championship six times between 1946 and 1959.
He first worked at Battle Creek Country Club, near where he spent his high school years (Lakeview High School) and from 1946 to 1960 was the head golf professional at Meadowbrook Country Club in Northville.
In the broader world of golf he is best remembered for beating the best golfers in the world in winning the 1954 PGA Championship. He is considered one of the last “club professionals” to win the major championship before it gave way to being won by full-time touring professionals and switching from a match play format to stroke play in 1958.
Harbert was a do-it-all golf professional with world-class playing talent and confidence who had great success in match play, but he also identified as a proud PGA professional and golf businessman.
But did we mention he could hit the long ball?
The PGA Championship started a long drive competition in 1949 that it held sporadically over the years in conjunction with the championship. It has been presented once again in recent years. Bryson DeChambeau, scientifically devoted to swinging as hard as possible, won the 2018 contest with a drive of 331 yards.
Chick, who preached purging complicated thinking from the golf swing and had what could loosely be called a baseball-bat grip, won the inaugural event at Hermitage Country Club in Richmond, Va., with a drive of 305 yards.
His talent for the long ball and his overall game helped make him the dominant golfer in the second set of 25 Michigan PGA Professional Championships. His six wins are third to the nine won by Al Watrous between 1922 and 1954, and the eight won by Scott Hebert between 2006 and 2016.
On the national stage his win in 1954 in the PGA Championship followed the 1953 championship won by Walter Burkemo, another Michigan PGA professional from Franklin Hills Country Club who also won the 1955 Michigan PGA Professional Championship.
In fact, it was Burkemo who fell to Harbert in the final match in the ’54 PGA played at Keller Golf Course in Minneapolis, Minn. The PGA Championship was decided via match play from its start in 1916 through 1957. Harbert had a sparkling 24-10 record in match play in his 22 appearances in the PGA.
Match play was in Harbert’s wheelhouse with his intimidating long drives. He played in the 1955 PGA won by Doug Ford and was the host-pro because it was played at Meadowbrook. He lost in the second round in that one, but he was runner-up in the national championship twice, falling in 1947 to Jim Ferrier when the PGA was hosted by Plum Hollow Country Club in Southfield, and falling to Jim Turnesa in 1952 at Big Spring County Club in Louisville, Ky.
Match play success helped make him the U.S. Ryder Cup playing captain in 1955 where he won in singles and led the team to victory. He also played on the 1949 team and won his only match.
In all, he played in 65 majors, 21 Masters, and 22 times each in the PGA and the U.S. Open.
While in the first 25 years of the PGA Professional Championship the winners were often pros dedicated to their own games while holding club pro jobs or affiliations in Michigan to supplement income, the second 25 years gave way to golfers like Harbert, who competed nationally but also served in management and ownership of the golf shop as the role of the PGA club professional evolved.
Harbert even worked behind the tournament scenes at the national level, serving as vice-president of the PGA of America and co-chairman of the PGA Tournament Committee in the 1950s. The tournament committee role was especially significant in the years before tour stars pushed for a split from the PGA of America and the establishment in 1968 of what is now the PGA Tour.
Jack Berry, long-time Detroit News golf writer who like Harbert is a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, remembered that Harbert would routinely drive the green on what was then the No. 1 hole at Meadowbrook along Eight Mile Road.
“He would start his rounds that way,” Berry said. “He and George Bayer, who was over at Detroit Golf Club, were two of the longest hitters of their time.”
Berry said his ownership of the cart fleet at Meadowbrook and the club’s desire to share in the revenue may have played a role in him eventually leaving the club. Harbert moved to the Traverse City area and added another line to his resume – designing nine holes at the Torch course at A-Ga-Ming Resort.
“That was really the last we heard from him,” Berry said.
Melvin R. “Chick” Harbert died in 1992 in Ocala, Fla. He was 77.
INFORMATION: Visit www.michiganpga.com
MICHIGAN PGA PROFESSIONAL CHAMPIONHIP
YEAR, CHAMPION, SITE
1922 Al Watrous Grosse Ile G&CC
1923 Davey Robertson Detroit GC
1924 Al Watrous Redford GC
1925 Frank Sprogell Detroit GC
1926 Wilfrid Reid Grosse Ile G&CC
1927 Jimmy Kinnear Indianwood Golf & CC
1928 Emrick Kocsis Western G&CC
1929 Clarence Gamber Plum Hollow CC
1930 Walter Hagen Birmingham CC
1931 Walter Hagen Battle Creek CC
1932 Al Watrous Birmingham CC
1933 Joe Belfore Lochhaven GC
1934 Morty Dutra Red Run GC
1935 Charles Sommer Klinger Lake CC
1936 Al Watrous Plum Hollow CC
1937 Joe Belfore Plum Hollow CC
1938 Al Watrous Midland CC
1939 Al Watrous Midland CC
1940 Emrick Kocsis Plum Hollow CC
1941 Al Watrous Midland CC
1942 Marvin Stahl Clinton Valley GC
1943 Jimmy Demaret Midland CC
1944 Sam Byrd Midland CC
1945 Sam Byrd Midland CC
1946 Chick Harbert Battle Creek CC
1947 Chick Harbert Midland CC
1948 Horton Smith Indianwood G&CC
1949 Chick Harbert Lenawee CC
1950 Chick Harbert Midland CC
1951 Ed Furgol Indianwood G&CC
1952 Al Watrous Midland CC
1953 Chick Harbert Midland CC
1954 Al Watrous Lakepointe GC
1955 Walter Burkemo Owosso CC
1956 Jimmy Johnson Grosse Ile G&CC
1957 John Barnum Birmingham CC
1958 John Barnum Midland CC
1959 Chick Harbert Lakepointe GC
1960 Ron Fox Farmington CC
1961 John Barnum St. Clair River GC
1962 Ben Lula Lake Hamilton GC
1963 Dick Bury Lake Hamilton GC
1964 Ted Kroll Lake Hamilton GC
1965 Brien Charter Owosso CC
1966 Gene Bone Bob O’Link GC
1967 Tom Deaton Davision CC
1968 Mike Souchak Davision CC
1969 Glenn Stuart Davision CC
1970 Dick Bury Davision CC
1971 John Molenda Davision CC
1972 Larry Mancour Davision CC
1973 Glenn Stuart Davision CC
1974 Ron Aleks Davision CC
1975 Gene Bone Davision CC
1976 Al Mengert Davision CC
1977 Buddy Whitten Davision CC
1978 Randy Erskine Davision CC
1979 Lynn Janson Davision CC
1980 Al Mengert Davision CC
1981 Lynn Janson Davision CC
1982 Tom Doozan Indianwood G&CC
1983 Buddy Whitten Indianwood G&CC
1984 John Traub Indianwood G&CC
1985 Lynn Janson Indianwood G&CC
1986 Gary Robinson Indianwood G&CC
1987 Lynn Janson Indianwood G&CC
1988 Jack Seltzer Indianwood G&CC
1989 Ken Allard Indianwood G&CC
1990 Barry Redmond Indianwood G&CC
1991 Ken Allard Indianwood G&CC
1992 Barry Redmond Garland Resort
1993 Steve Brady Garland Resort
1994 Bob Makoski Garland Resort
1995 Steve Brady Boyne Highlands
1996 Brian Cairns Boyne Highlands
1997 Tom Harding Boyne Highlands
1998 Jeff Roth Boyne Highlands
1999 Jeff Roth Boyne Highlands
2000 Brian Cairns Shanty Creek Resort
2001 Jeff Roth Shanty Creek Resort
2002 Ken Allard Shanty Creek Resort
2003 Jeff Roth Shanty Creek Resort
2004 Joe Pollack Shanty Creek Resort
2005 John DalCorobbo Shanty Creek Resort
2006 Scott Hebert Eagle Eye/Hawk Hollow
2007 Scott Hebert Eagle Eye/Hawk Hollow
2008 Scott Hebert Eagle Eye/Hawk Hollow
2009 Scott Hebert Eagle Eye/Hawk Hollow
2010 Ron Beurmann Eagle Eye/Hawk Hollow
2011 Scott Hebert Eagle Eye/Hawk Hollow
2012 Scott Hebert Oakland University G&L
2013 Brian Cairns Oakland University G&L
2014 Scott Hebert Oakland University G&L
2015 Dan Urban Egypt Valley CC
2016 Scott Hebert Egypt Valley CC
2017 John Seltzer Flint GC
2018 Lee Houtteman Flint GC
2019 Jeff Roth Flint GC
2020 Ben Cook Flint GC
Note: Part 2 focuses on the years in bold.