Former Champ Andy Matthews Starts Strong in 106th Michigan Amateur Championship
ADA TOWNSHIP – Andy Matthews saw Egypt Valley Country Club legend and Michigan Golf Hall of Famer Jack VanEss before he played Tuesday and figures maybe something rubbed off.
“I haven’t seen Jack in a long time, and he is one of the greatest putters anyone has ever seen, so I’m thinking it helped to see him before I played,” Matthews said after shooting a 6-under 66 for the first-round lead in the 106th Michigan Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland. “I putted really well, just great.”
Matthews, 37, an Ada resident, former Egypt Valley member and reinstated amateur after a 10-year professional career, was two shots better than a trio of 68 shooters – Wayne State University’s Grant Haefner of Bloomfield Hills, John Quigley of St. Clair Shores and Nate Clark of Charlotte.
Defending champion Sam Weatherhead of Grand Rapids and Michigan State, and 17-year-old Grosse Pointe South High School golfer Patrick Sullivan each shot 69.
Tom Werkmeister, the 2009 Michigan Amateur champion from Grandville, and five-time and current Egypt Valley club champion Derrek Klimek were next with 71s.
The field of 162 golfers plays another 18 holes of stroke play on Wednesday to determine the low 64 scores for the match play bracket and the qualifying medalist, who receives the Chuck Kocsis Trophy. Match play will start Thursday and continue through Saturday to determine a state champion, who receives the Staghorn Trophy.
Matthews, who won the 2001 Michigan Amateur while playing for the University of Michigan and before embarking on the Canadian Tour and South African Tour, said he had butterflies on the first tee for the first time in a long time.
“When I made the decision to get reinstated as an amateur and I was going through the process I noticed that Egypt Valley was the host in 2017, so this one has been circled on my calendar for a long time,” he said. “It was fun. I’m having more fun playing golf now than I have in a long time. The number one goal in this is to make sure you have a tee time Thursday morning by getting through stroke play, but it feels nice to be the leader, too.”
Matthews, who played in the afternoon and endured rain and cold, had seven birdies and no bogeys through 17 holes, but missed the green left at No. 18, chipped short and made his first bogey.
“I thought the chip would release, and it didn’t,” he said. “I made two 15-footers for par though, so the game was good to me today. I hit it close a couple of times, but I put a new putter in a few weeks ago and it was really rolling great today.
Haefner, 19 and a sophomore to be at Wayne State, played in the very first group of the day off No. 10 tee and said he made some 15-foot putts for par that kept him engaged and motivated.
“For about the last month I’ve been playing really well, and today my putting really helped me out,” he said.
His goal is to make match play and take it as far as possible. He lost in his first match a year ago to Domenic Mancinelli of Northville and Grand Valley State in 23 holes. Mancinelli eventually finished as the runner-up to Weatherhead.
Quigley, the 2015 Michigan Publinx Match Play champion who works in the health insurance industry, said he felt like he made a million feet of putts. The million included a 55-footer on the par 5 No. 17 hole for eagle 3.
“My caddie gave me a good read and it just tracked along the ridge and went in,” he said. “I putted well all day. I didn’t do anything spectacular really, just made a lot of putts.”
Clark, a 37-year-old financial advisor who will be 38 Sunday, said he was just trying to hit fairways and greens and make it to match play.
“It would be nice if medalist would happen, but it’s not really a goal,” he said. “I hit a few today not really playing at the flag, but they ended up going that way and ended up close, and I made some good putts, too. The rain lasted about four holes there and it started to go sideways, but then it stopped and I started playing well again.”
About the GAM: Founded in 1919, the Golf Association of Michigan is the governing body for amateur golf in the state. As a not-for-profit organization, the GAM’s purpose is to promote, preserve and serve the game of golf. The GAM, served by over 250 dedicated volunteers, provides membership to more than 55,000 golfers and more than 470 Michigan golf courses, conducts over 30 amateur championships, oversees 18 USGA qualifying events, administers the GAM/USGA Handicap System and measures and rates almost 70 courses a year for the USGA. Learn more at www.gam.org.
via Greg Johnson