Two Player-Designers, an Ace
And a Never-On-Sunday Veteran
Elected to Michigan Golf Hall of Fame
DEXTER—Rick Smith, Larry Mancour and Jack Seltzer, all PGA professionals, and Grand Rapids senior amateur Jack Van Ess, who vowed to his parents that he never would play on Sunday, will be inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame on May 20 at Michigan State’s University Club.
The Michigan Golf Foundation also will present a special award to MSU’s Turf Team from the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences for its outstanding work in improving the quality of golf course turf statewide and internationally.
The multi-talented Smith worked as an assistant professional in Lakeland, Fla., and taught collegian Lee Janzen who went on to win two United States Open championships, and also taught PGA Tour players Rocco Mediate and Billy Andrade.
Smith returned to his native Michigan in 1986. As the new golf director at Sylvan (now Treetops) Resort in Gaylord and after overseeing the opening of its Robert Trent Jones course, Smith talked owner Harry Melling into hiring Tom Fazio to do a second course. Then Melling gave Smith the go-ahead to build a unique par three. It became Treetops, the site of the Par 3 Shootout on ESPN that featured the greatest players in the game including Lee Trevino who made a million dollar ace in 2007.
With those successes Melling, who joked he’d have a course for every day of the week, had Smith design two 18 hole courses and Treetops became a nationally recognized resort. Smith furthered that along by developing and hosting Golf Channel’s Big Break golf show. His work at Arcadia Bluffs has made that Lake Michigan-side course a target for golf’s big game hunters.
A good player himself but more interested in teaching, Smith, 54, has worked with Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Jack’s son Gary, Matt Kuchar and John Daly.
Flint native Mancour, 77, is also multi-talented. He taught with Tony Lema at Golden Gate Fields driving range in California , built the second nine holes of Lake Tahoe Country Club, won the Arizona Open and played the PGA Tour.
Mancour returned to Michigan to play in the Buick Open and he stayed and built Grand Blanc Golf Club, then added nine at the Flint Elks where he was professional for 20 years. He rescued the Buick Open when General Motors dropped the tournament. With local Buick dealers Mancour started the Little Buick Open in 1969. It drew players and fans and led to the rebirth of the Buick in 1977.
Mancour started as a caddie at 11 and never forgot junior golfers. He hosted the American Junior Golf Association’s first tournament in Michigan in 1985.
Mancour also designed nationally-recognized Dunmaglas Golf Club in Charlevoix and Chestnut Valley in Harbor Springs.
Mancour’s playing credentials include Michigan Player of the Year twice, Golf Professional of the Year, winner of the Michigan PGA, Senior PGA, Senior Open, Northern Michigan PGA champion, winner of seven team championships, National PGA Quarter Century and Senior championships in the PGA Winter Series in Florida.
Jack Seltzer, 60, is another Flint native who started young. He won the Class A high school championship in 1967 while at Flint Southwestern and was Flint Junior champion in 1969, junior college champion in 1971 and 1972 and has won all three major state championships, the Open, the Match Play and the PGA. He played on the 1983 PGA Cup team against Great Britain and Ireland at Muirfield , Scotland , and won his singles match.
Seltzer won all four Michigan PGA team championships in 1978, each with a different partner. He’s been four-time State Pro-Am champion, three-time Pro-Pro and twice Senior-Junior champion.
Seltzer’s top career shot came in the final round on the ninth hole of the Bear in the 1987 Michigan Open. The ninth is all carry over water and Seltzer aced the hole. A television camera caught it and it went national as Seltzer rolled on to win.
Seltzer laughed afterward that the cup wasn’t supposed to be.
A seagull deposited a souvenir at the back right of the green and when the hole was cut in the morning, the workman mistook the seagull’s mark for the assigned cup spot.
A longtime club professional in Hillsdale, Seltzer also spent time in South Florida in Stuart and was South Florida PGA Player of the Year in 1984, South Florida PGA champion in 1983 and Dixie Section champion in 2008. He currently is at the Kendall Academy and over his years of teaching he’s had 32 high school All State players, 11 Michigan Dream Team players and one Miss Golf Michigan .
Jack Van Ess is the most unusual of all 98 members of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame – he didn’t play on Sunday and consequently only played tournaments that ended on Saturday.
Nevertheless, Van Ess, 84, has had a sterling career. He’s won the State Senior Open and Senior Amateur, the only player to make that double. He won the Dale Morey Society of Seniors event in South Carolina and World Super Seniors 80 and over in North Carolina . He won the club championship at Greenridge, which morphed into Egypt Valley , 10 times over four decades.
Van Ess played in the U.S. Amateur in California , the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst, the Western Amateur at Point O’Woods, the Senior Amateur in Texas and Senior Open in Minnesota . He led the Western Michigan Amateur five times going into Sunday and then withdrew. Never on Sunday.
Van Ess ended Dan Pohl’s Michigan Amateur defense in 1976 when he beat the Mt. Pleasant bomber, 3 and 2 in the second round. Pohl did win the Amateur again in 1977 and then turned professional and is a Hall of Fame member.
Van Ess was inducted into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 joining John Barnum, Lynn Janson, Buddy Whitten and Mark Wilson who also are members of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
The special award to MSU’s Turf Team marks the second time the Michigan Golf Foundation has recognized an important contribution to golf in the state. The Buick Open was honored in 2008 for its half century of bringing the game’s best players to Michigan .
MSU’s Turf Team is on call for every course in the state. It’s golf research from the dirt to the green carpets of fairways and greens, treating diseases, finding proper nutrients, fertilizers and proper water use. Not only has the team been on demand in Michigan , it has answered requests from 26 countries on six of the world’s seven continents and is part of a degree program in China .