Historic 100th Michigan Open Championship, presented by LaFontaine Cadillac, Starts Monday at Prestwick Village Golf Club
HIGHLAND TOWNSHIP – When Jeff Bronkema won the Michigan Open Championship presented by LaFontaine Cadillac at Prestwick Village Golf Club a year ago, he took home more than a trophy and the first-place check.
The 28-year-old mini-tour golfer from Wayland was given a two-year lease on a black, sleek and stylish Cadillac SRX.
“I love it, and I would love to add another one for two more years,” he said Friday while playing in a large LaFontaine customer appreciation event at Prestwick Village.
Bronkema will lead the field of the historic 100th Michigan Open Championship starting Monday and continuing through Thursday at Prestwick. LaFontaine and Prestwick have teamed up for a fourth consecutive year to sponsor and host the state championship, and Ryan LaFontaine said the company is proud to be part of the Michigan Open heritage.
“We are part of it, Cadillac is part of it, Highland Township is part of it, Prestwick is part of it, and the players tell us this is their favorite tournament,” he said. “Prestwick and my Cadillac staff do such an amazing job.”
On Friday 150 golfers played, including a professional or top amateur from next week’s Michigan Open field being placed in each foursome.
Bronkema said it felt great to turn into Prestwick off M-59 for the first time since winning.
“I have a great feeling here and I love this golf course, so I’m really looking forward to getting back on it,” he said.
He has competed in just a few events since last year’s Web.com Tour qualifying where he reached the second of three stages, but said he has been practicing and is confident he will play well in his title defense.
“I played in a tournament in South America and in a U.S. Open sectional,” he said. “I played decent in South America, but didn’t put it together for four days. That will be the goal here again.”
Bronkema said the win last year means a lot.
“This has been the biggest tournament of my life for a long time,” he said. “When I first started playing in I just wanted to make the cut. I struggled so hard, and I got better every year. It felt really good to finally win it.”
He said his favorite memory is having a four-shot lead standing on the tee at No. 18 during the final round.
“I hit some really good shots and made some really good putts that week, but the thing I remember most is standing on that tee knowing that it was over, and I had it won if I could just get the ball off the tee and then somewhere around the green and finish the hole.”
Bronkema closed with a 2-under 70 for a 12-under 276. He topped 2007 champion Andy Ruthkoski of Muskegon and Eric Lilleboe of Okemos by three shots.
He said the key at Prestwick is control of the golf ball.
“The greens are super-fast so you have to control putts and your approach shots, which means you have to hit it in the fairway,” he said. “There are some places here, too, where if you miss the green you have no chance at par. It is a ball-striker’s course.”
Bronkema is one of 13 former champions representing 21 Opens who are in the starting field.
Five-time champion Randy Erskine of Lake Orion (1976, ’78, ’79, ’84, ’85), three-time champion Steve Brady of Oakland Hills Country Club (1991, ’92, ’96), two-time champion Bob Ackerman of Ackerman Golf in West Bloomfield (1975, 2003), two-time champion Tom Gillis of Lake Orion (1994, 2008), 2015 champion Jeff Cuzzort of Grosse Ile, 2013 champion Tom Werkmeister of Grand Rapids, 2012 champion Barrett Kelpin of Kalamazoo, 2011 champion Randy Hutchison of Traverse City, 2007 champion Andy Ruthkoski of Muskegon, 1989 champion Barry Redmond of Boyne Resorts, 1987 champion Jack Seltzer of Jack Seltzer Golf Academy and 1986 champion Tim Matthews of Scotts return for the historic Open.
Prestwick will challenge the field with a variety of golf holes, including some links style, traditional parkland and some carved from woodlands. Located just north of Milford in Highland Township on 426 acres of natural, rolling terrain amid a family-focused community, Prestwick was designed by architect Ron Garl.
The Michigan Open was first played in 1916 and won by Leo Diegel, who also played in the inaugural Ryder Cup matches and The Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. Many of golf’s most famous have their names listed on the Michigan Open’s James Standish Trophy including Walter Hagen, Chuck Kocsis, Al Watrous, Horton Smith, Walter Burkemo and John Barnum.
Play starts Monday at 8 a.m. The field will play 72-holes over four days with a cut after 36-holes to the low 70 scorers and ties. The public is welcome free of charge. Follow signs for parking and fan shuttles.
Via Greg Johnson