Blythefield’s John Seltzer Wins Michigan PGA Match Play for Second Time
BATH – John Seltzer made it to the final match of the Michigan PGA Match Play Championship for the sixth time in his career but had just one title to show for it.
Make that two.
The 39-year-old head golf professional from Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids held off Ferris State University golf coach Kyle Wittenbach to win 2-up in the championship match Wednesday at Eagle Eye Golf Club.
“I lost in extra holes last year, lost another one on the 18th hole a few years ago, it was nice to close one out for a change,” said the 2017 Michigan PGA Professional Champion who first won the Match Play title in 2009.
“Kyle is a really good player, and hits it past me like everybody, but I played steady, kept it in front of me, didn’t make a lot of mistakes, made some putts and it feels good to win again.”
The 30-year-old Wittenbach said he was happy about his performance in the championship, especially beating defending champion and Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member Scott Hebert of Traverse City Golf & Country Club in the rain-delayed semifinals on Tuesday.
“No one expects to beat him,” he said. “They might believe they can because anybody can beat anybody especially in match play, but finishing that match and winning, I was proud of myself.
“I hung in there today. I hit a lot of good putts – and John and I were just talking about it – they just didn’t fall. My speed on the greens was a little off all day. I played well. Down the stretch I made a nice birdie on 16 to get it closer, and I had a chance to tie it on 18 but didn’t quite execute by the green. John doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. I was two putts away from maybe winning it, but John made the shots.”
Seltzer didn’t get up and down from a greenside bunker on No. 2 and made bogey to fall behind early. Wittenbach hit a drive out-of-bounds left on No. 4 and later conceded the hole to make the match all square. Then Seltzer rolled in a 25-foot putt for birdie on the long par 3 No. 5 hole to go 1-up before Wittenbach made things even again at No. 6 with a birdie.
At No. 8 Wittenbach’s tee shot right of the fairway resulted in a lost ball and lost hole and Seltzer went 2-up at No. 11 when Wittenbach three-putted from about 35 feet above the hole.
Wittenbach won No. 13 with a par when Seltzer’s approach shot missed the green short, and it looked like he might tie the match when he reached the par 5 No. 14 green in two shots. Seltzer, however, hit a bunker shot of about 35 yards to within eight feet and made the putt to match the two-putt birdie of Wittenbach and keep the 1-up lead.
At 15, another three-putt for Wittenbach put him behind by two holes, and yet he rallied again with an eight-foot birdie at No. 16.
At the perilous island green No. 17 Wittenbach hit first and found the water, and Seltzer followed suit. They ended up halving the hole with double-bogey 5s.
With a 1-up lead Seltzer played the par 5 No. 18 straight away with three shots to the green, and Wittenbach’s second shot ended up on a lower portion of the fairway where he failed to get a shot over the railroad ties near the green and eventually conceded the hole and match.
“I rely on my putter to beat people,” Seltzer said. “In match play that means I’m never really out of a hole. To beat me the other guys has to make some putts, and Kyle just couldn’t get any to drop.”
Seltzer, a veteran section member in his fourth season at Blythefield, said the key hole in the match was his birdie with the long sand shot at the par 5 No. 14 hole.
“I know he is going to at least make birdie so in match play you are not protecting a score and you stay aggressive,” he said. “I went after that bunker shot and pulled it off. I think there’s a lesson there. It’s usually better to play aggressive rather than try not to make a mistake. That was big for me there.”
It was the first finals for Wittenbach and his best finish in the PGA Section as a fourth-year member. The Lowell native is in his third year as the Ferris coach after coaching first at Northern Michigan University.
“I played in a lot of the chapter and section events this year and I had a good year,” he said. “I look forward to playing in more and becoming a contender more often.”
RESULTS: See the match play bracket at michiganpgagolf.com
via Greg Johnson