Grosse Ile Pro Jeff Cuzzort Sets First-Round Pace in 100th Michigan Open Championship
HIGHLAND – Jeff Cuzzort of Grosse Ile liked that he was paired with former Michigan Open champions like himself in the first round of the historic 100th Michigan Open Championship presented by LaFontaine Cadillac at Prestwick Village Golf Club Monday.
“I was very comfortable with those guys,” he said of Tom Gillis of Lake Orion and Randy Hutchison of Traverse City after shooting a 5-under 67 to set the first-round pace in the state championship.
“We had a laid back atmosphere, and it was easy to play golf. Hutch and Gilley are quick golfers like me and play relaxed. Gilley pushed me along for a while, and I tried to push him along.”
Cuzzort, the 2015 Michigan Open champion and newly engaged to Ashley Kowalski, had a one-shot lead on Haslett teaching pro Chris Mory, whose 68 put him second alone.
Rich Saferian of Milford, a former junior college national champion who also played at the University of Arizona, and mini-tour pro Wes Gates of Novi checked in next with 69s.
Three golfers shot 70, including amateur Francesco Ruffino of Bloomfield, mini-tour pro Joe Juszczyk of Dearborn Heights and Northwood University golfer Matt Garland.
Defending champion Jeff Bronkema of Wayland was among those who shot 71. Also shooting 71 was mini-tour pro Willie Mack III of Grand Blanc, two-time Michigan Open runner-up Matt Thompson of Franklin and four amateurs – Jake Radom of Royal Oak, A.J. Verekois of Rockford and Michigan State, Connor Jones of Rochester and Oakland University, and Alex Scott of Traverse City.
The field of 156 golfers will be cut to the low 70 scorers and ties following Tuesday’s second round. The $57,500 championship continues through Thursday. In addition to a first-place check, the winner receives a two-year lease on a new Cadillac from LaFontaine.
Gillis, on the PGA Tour through last year and a recent inductee into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, was 3-under for a while in his round, but closed with a 72. He won the Michigan Open in 1994 as a young pro and then again in 2008 on a visit home from the PGA Tour. Hutchison, who won in 2011, had a tough day and shot 80.
“I just played solid, did my job,” said the 32-year-old Cuzzort who caddies and teaches golf. “I didn’t really drive it well, but hit a lot of greens and made a few putts. I chipped in on five from over the green. I had a pretty nasty lie there, and would have been lucky to make four from where I was at. It went in. Then I made a nice 25-footer up the hill on No. 9 for birdie. That was a good birdie. That hole was into the wind and had a back pin.”
Mory, who teaches at the Jason Guss Academy at Hawk Hollow Properties, also described his round as solid. The 27-year-old former Michigan State golfer said he hasn’t played much tournament golf this year.
“I didn’t know what I was going to get, but I feel pretty good with the day,” he said. “I played smart the whole day and putted pretty well. I had a couple of good up-and-downs and managed to get around with a good score.”
Cuzzort said his LaFontaine lease from winning two years ago recently ended, but he signed another for a new Cadillac. He said he could handle getting another Cadillac this week.
“Ashley needs some new wheels,” he said.
COMPLETE RESULTS: Can be found at www.michiganpgagolf.com
via Greg Johnson