100 Years Of The Michigan PGA Professional Championship Part 2

Melvin "Chick" Harbert 100 Years Of The Michigan PGA Professional Championship Part 2
Melvin “Chick” Harbert

100 Years Of The Michigan PGA Professional Championship Part 2

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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.

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