Familiar Belvedere Golf Club Hosting 34th GAM Senior Championship
CHARLEVOIX – Historic Belvedere Golf Club is a fitting and familiar site for the golfers over age 55 who will gather for the 34th GAM Senior Championship presented by Sullivan Golf Travel.com Monday and Tuesday.
A field of 156 golfers over age 55 will play two days of stroke play to identify the Senior champion as well as a winner in the Super Senior division for those over age 65.
The storied club is hosting the GAM Senior Championship for the fifth time since 2004, including 2016, and has also hosted the Michigan Amateur Championship an unprecedented 40 times, most recently 2014 and 2003, and from 1963-88 was the annual host when many of the current senior players competed as the state’s elite golfers. It is slated to host the Michigan Amateur again in 2025 when the club celebrates its centennial year.
The William Watson design, considered one of Michigan’s finest classic courses and a favorite of golf legend Tom Watson who summered in the area in his youth, was lengthened in 2014 to 6,870 yards for the Michigan Amateur. It has been a fixture in Charlevoix since 1925 and membership of the golf club, as it has been through its history, is mostly summer visitors from southern states.
William Watson designed a big golf course, especially by the standards of the era. It played to a then-unheard of 6,500 yards with just one tee pad on 17 of the 18 holes. It escaped change and renovation projects for years in large part because the membership was only in Charlevoix for two months.
In the fall of 2016, the demolishment of an old building in Charlevoix led to the discovery of the Watson’s original drawings of the course. While aerial photos existed from the late 1930’s, there was no actual documentation of the original parkland design until the find.
With the original drawings at hand, Belvedere decided to begin a restoration. Golf architect Bruce Hepner and then-Superintendent Rick Grunch completed the project for the 2017 season. They expanded some putting surface areas, fairways, and approach areas on many of the holes that had been lost to erosion and mowing patterns over time, and they did a strategic tree removal and brought back a few lost bunkers.
Dennis “Marty” Joy is currently the head golf professional and a historian and author. Grunch retired as superintendent in April at the age of 72 after 26 years at the club. He was just the third superintendent in the course’s history. His replacement is Ontario native and Michigan State University graduate Jordan Caplan, who previously was superintendent of the St. Martins Athletic Fields at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.
Eight former GAM Senior champions, including defending champion and Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member Steve Maddalena of Jackson, are in the field this week.
Other former champions include 2018 champion David Bartnick of Livonia, 2015 champion Mike Tungate of East Lansing, five-time winner and Hall of Famer Bill Zylstra of Dearborn Heights, who despite being over 65 is still competing in the Senior division and won in 2013 when Belvedere hosted, and two-time champion Ian Harris of Bloomfield Hills, who is also over 65 but opting to play for the Senior title.
Former overall champions now playing in the Super Senior division include 2007 winner Mike Fedewa of Canton, who also won at Belvedere, 2016 champion Tom Rex Jr. of Charlevoix, who won at Belvedere, and 2003 champion Roger Kuhl of Jackson.
Last year at Country Club of Lansing, Maddalena, a three-time Michigan Amateur winner including 1980 at Belvedere, birdied the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with LaRay Anderson of Novi for the win.
In the Super Senior division, Mark Ochsankehl of Caledonia avoided a playoff with a key birdie on No. 17 to win that title by one shot over Terry Westbrook of Grand Rapids.
PAIRINGS, RESULTS: https://bit.ly/3jVdlHk