Sunday At The Ally Challenge

Sunday At The Ally Challenge

I spent this past Sunday at The Ally Challenge — the Champions Tour stop in nearby Grand Blanc, Michigan. The Ally Challenge is a relatively new tournament (2018 was the inaugural event) but the venue is well known: Warwick Hills, the storied golf club that for decades hosted the Buick Open.

You can see a Warwick Hills course tour at the link

Ally, a Michigan-based financial corporation puts on a good show. Tournament week featured community events, a concert by Dierks Bentley, and on Saturday, a rare exhibition golf match featuring Jack Nicklaus.

Unfortunately, due to family matters, I had to miss Saturday’s excitement. Sunday was still a lot of fun. Threatening skies and a bit of rain reduced the size of the crowds from the previous year; those who attended got to see some fine golf.

With a comfortable lead, Jerry Kelly tees off on the eighteenth at the Ally Challenge.

The 2019 Ally Championship winner was Jerry Kelly, who won by two shots over Woody Austin. It was his second Champions Tour win of the season (the first was the American Family Insurance Championship in June). During his PGA TOUR career, Kelly made 616 starts and earned $29 million.

As you might expect, Kelly was emotional after his win:

Oh, it’s so awesome. Like I said last night, Kevin Conroy’s the CEO of Exact Sciences and Cologuard and he dubbed me a Flintoid for the week. I mean, I love that term and, you know, the people were fantastic out there. We’re so happy to be back at this tournament. Nos. 8 and 17 are just a ton of fun to play in front of. I wanted that birdie for those guys so they could have, you know, just a little bit more time with the two-dollar off beers.No, it’s a great place. Really happy to get the W here

Woody Austin finished second, two shots behind at -14. Michigan’s Tom Gillis was T7 at -10.

Complete results of the 2019 Ally Challenge are at the bottom of the page.

Langer, the ageless wonder, was in the mix again at the Ally Challenge.

The main appeal for me of a Champions Tour event is seeing some of the great players of the recent past, including such Hall of Famers as Bernhard Langer, Tom Kite, Colin Montgomerie, Retief Goosen and Fred Couples.

The Ally Challenge is a special event because in addition to seeing the veteran players, fans also have a chance to see them play a course that many played during their stints on the PGA TOUR. It is a homecoming of sorts.

A view of the raucous seventeenth at the Ally Challenge

During the tournament, Ally announced that it had signed a five year extension, keeping the tournament at Warwick through 2025. Starting in 2020, it will move from a fall event to July. The 2020 edition will be played July 27 – August 2.

“When I look back two years ago, and I told our players we were going to be coming back to play here at Warwick, they were so excited, and now I get to tell them that we’ll be here at least until 2025, and it makes our life easy dealing with our players week-in and week-out,” PGA Tour Champions president Brady Miller said.

Not sure how I feel about that. It’s bound to be much warmer.

Kenny Perry tees off at the tenth at the Ally Challenge

I spent much of the day hovering around two key locations. The ninth green and the tenth tee are just a few yards apart, and both can be seen from the shade of a large tree. From that vantage, I could watch a group display their short game skills on the elevated 9th green, and then watch the same group blast shots down the fairway on ten.

A highlight: Chris DiMarco missed his approach shot right of the green, then pitched it up the steep slope for a chip in.

The seventeenth at The Ally Challenge

Another good spot to watch the tournament was at the confluence of several holes: the 16th green, the par 3 seventeenth and the 18th tee. This area really is the epicenter of the tournament. Fans in the grandstands at seventeen were really having a good time. Even spots along the cart path offered really good views.

The entrance to the Ally Challenge Fan Zone was adjacent to the 17th hole, creating an epicenter for the tournament.

Adjacent to the 17th was the Fan Zone. This area featured a variety of tents with displays, activities and food trucks. An Ally-sponsored NASCAR vehicle was there and McLaren had a “get out of the bunker” contest featuring an artificial bunker with a severe wall. Kids could exercise in an inflatable play area. Fans could get their photo taken with the Ally Challenge trophy. Hackers feeling good about your swing could take a couple of swings at a target floating in the pond alongside seventeen and eighteen.

The PGA of America gave free mini lessons at the Ally Challenge

I stopped in at a couple of inflatable practice nets where PGA professionals were offering free lessons. The pro checked my grip, stance and alignment and made a couple of corrections. On Monday, I played at my local muni and saw an immediate improvement.

Faygo sponsored a pavilion from which to watch the action at the ninth green.

A final great spot from which to enjoy the tournament was the Faygo Porch Bar, from which you could see what was happening on both the ninth and tenth greens.

The final group heads up to the green on Sunday at the Ally Challenge

A nice touch from the tournament was that as the final group approached the eighteenth green, fans were allowed to follow up the fairway (behind moving ropes supervised by State Troopers — but it’s not as though there was going to be a sudden mobbing of the green by golf fans).

The final results of the Ally Challenge follow. A photo gallery is at the bottom of the page.

FinishNameTo ParR1R2R3TOTEARNINGS
1Jerry Kelly-16676568200$300,000
2Woody Austin-14686569202$176,000
T3Tim Petrovic-12696867204$120,000
T3Steve Flesch-12687066204$120,000
T3David Toms-12706668204$120,000
6Retief Goosen-11667366205$80,000
T7Tom Byrum-10706769206$58,400
T7Wes Short Jr.-10696770206$58,400
T7Tom Lehman-10696770206$58,400
T7Bernhard Langer-10686771206$58,400
T7Tom Gillis-10666971206$58,400
T12Fred Couples-9707067207$40,667
T12Kenny Perry-9706671207$40,667
T12Jerry Smith-9676872207$40,667
T15Colin Montgomerie-8697069208$35,000
T15Scott McCarron-8666775208$35,000
T17Marco Dawson-7727067209$29,150
T17Stephen Ames-7707168209$29,150
T17Brandt Jobe-7716870209$29,150
T17Chris DiMarco-7706871209$29,150
T21Angel Cabrera-6727266210$22,200
T21Lee Janzen-6717267210$22,200
T21Glen Day-6707169210$22,200
T21Doug Barron-6706971210$22,200
T21Mark O’Meara-6706971210$22,200
T26Scott Parel-5766966211$17,800
T26Ken Tanigawa-5697270211$17,800
T26Stephen Leaney-5687073211$17,800
T26Gene Sauers-5696874211$17,800
T30David Frost-4707171212$15,067
T30Kirk Triplett-4707072212$15,067
T30Bart Bryant-4726872212$15,067
T33Rocco Mediate-3727368213$11,850
T33Gibby Gilbert III-3747069213$11,850
T33Darren Clarke-3677571213$11,850
T33Jay Haas-3677472213$11,850
T33Jesper Parnevik-3727071213$11,850
T33Jeff Sluman-3717072213$11,850
T33Greg Kraft-3736872213$11,850
T33Kent Jones-3726873213$11,850
T41Paul Broadhurst-2717370214$9,000
T41Bob Estes-2727072214$9,000
T41David McKenzie-2727072214$9,000
T41Cliff Kresge-2697273214$9,000
T41Steve Jones-2736774214$9,000
T46Billy Andrade-1757169215$7,600
T46Brandel Chamblee-1767069215$7,600
T48Skip KendallE727470216$6,800
T48Esteban ToledoE737073216$6,800
T50Tommy Armour III1727471217$6,000
T50Vijay Singh1767071217$6,000
T52Gary Hallberg2737768218$5,067
T52Todd Fischer2747173218$5,067
T52Duffy Waldorf2687575218$5,067
T55Joe Durant3737571219$4,500
T55John Huston3747075219$4,500
T57Tom Pernice Jr4757471220$4,000
T57Loren Roberts4747373220$4,000
T57Dan Forsman4767074220$4,000
T60Mark Walker5747473221$3,300
T60Miguel Angel Jimenez5747374221$3,300
T60Dennis Hendershott5757175221$3,300
T60Larry Mize5727376221$3,300
T64Paul Goydos6727773222$2,500
T64Dudley Hart6727674222$2,500
T64Joey Sindelar6727575222$2,500
T64Billy Mayfair6747375222$2,500
T68Corey Pavin7767473223$1,940
T68Russ Cochran7757375223$1,940
T70Sandy Lyle8757376224$1,700
T70Tom Kite8717479224$1,700
72Mark Calcavecchia9707877225$1,520
73David Eger11767279227$1,400
74Michael Allen12777477228$1,320
75Gary Nicklaus15787776231$1,240
76Mark Brooks19777583235$1,160
Olin BrowneWD7673149
Jeff MaggertDQ
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