I spent Saturday at the Ally Challenge, the new PGA TOUR Champions event at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Michigan. It was an enjoyable day with good (if hot) weather, and plenty of good golf to watch.
A big selling point of a Champions Tour event is the opportunity to see players from the recent (and not so recent) past still competing, albeit on a different scale. I daresay most golf fans of my age would recognize and appreciate the players in the Ally Challenge field. Among them: Fred Couples, Rocco Mediate, Mark Calcavecchia, Bernhard langer, Corey Pavin, David Toms, Vijay Singh, Lee Janzen, Darren Clark, Mark O’Meara, Jay Haas, Scott Verplank, Kirk Triplett, Jerry Kelly and Larry Mize.
At the end of the day on Saturday, Scott McCarron, Tom Lehman and Jeff Maggert led the tournament at -10. Mark O’Meara, Tom Byrum, Paul Broadhurst and Esteban Toledo all were a shot back at -9.
McCarron got into his tie for the lead with birdies on the last three holes of the day, including a chip-in on the last. Lehman birdied the 18th to get to 67 for the day (5 under). Maggert shot a second round 68 for his share of the lead.
Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club served as the host of the Buick Open from 1958 to 1969 and then from 1977 to its demise in 2009. The field of this year’s Ally Challenge features several players who were Buick Open Winners: Kenny Perry, Vijay Singh, Rocco Mediate, Tom Pernice, Jr., Billy Mayfair, Woody Austin, Fred Couples, Larry Mize, Dan Forsman and Scott Verplank. Buick Open runners up in the field include Woody Austin, Chris DiMarco, Esteban Toledo, Tom Lehman, Tom Byrum and Corey Pavin
I have no idea what Ally Challenge organizers were expecting in terms of attendance, but it seemed to me that crowds were good for a first year event. Some of that may have to do with the ancillary events, such as a 5K run, a community concert by Big and Rich, a Junior clinic and some other non-golf activities. In the “Fan Zone,” the Ally Challenge sported a Biergarden, food trucks, a golf simulator, hole-in-one contest , McLaren health pavilion and other not-necessarily-related-to-golf activities. It’s a good idea to turn a golf tournament into a community event.
More photos from Saturday at the Ally Challenge follow: