Defending Champion Upset, 15-Year-Old Makes Sweet 16 in Michigan Amateur
HARBOR SPRINGS – Wayne State University golfer Grant Haefner upset defending champion Ben Smith, and Lorenzo Pinili, a 15-year-old from Rochester Hills surprised himself with two wins in his first two matches ever.
They made for two of the many interesting stories from a marathon Wednesday at the 109th Michigan Amateur Championship, and they are also part of the celebrated “Sweet 16” final players determined for the state championship being presented by Carl’s Golfland at Boyne Highlands Resort.
Haefner, who is from Bloomfield Hills, was 4-under through 14 holes in upsetting Smith, the Georgia Tech golfer from Novi who was medalist and powered through match play to win a year ago. Haefner’s big win came in the afternoon round of 32, after he turned back David Levan of Ann Arbor in the morning round of 64.
Pinili, who will be a sophomore at Birmingham Brother Rice High School in the fall, started his morning with a round of 64 win over two-time former GAM Champion Mitchell White of Muskegon, 6 and 5, and then rallied for a 3 and 2 win over Oakland University golfer Kyle Petrovich of West Bloomfield.
Haefner, who was the medalist and top seed in 2017 at Egypt Valley Country Club but lost in the first round of match play, said his two wins were the first he has ever had in the amateur.
“Not even when I was medalist,” he said. “I never have played good golf through three days of an amateur like this. I only made two bogeys today and I was bogey-free against Ben. I hit a lot of good shots, made good putts and I’m just real happy I executed my shots when I had to do it.”
Pinili said he learned some things about his game and himself as he played the first two matches of his life. He has only played in stroke play events before, and his biggest win was last year in the Golfweek Junior Tour Championship
“It feels really great to win,” he said. “For a while I was one-down (round of 32 match against Petrovich) and I was just trying to keep it together. To turn it around and win is just a great feeling. I was just playing to make pars, and then after I was one-down I realized I had to get aggressive and that at times in match play you have to do something different. I learned that today.”
Haefner moves on to play August Meekhof of Eastmanville, who will be a freshman golfer at Michigan State University in the fall. Pinili has to take on co-medalist and top seed James Piot of Canton, a current Michigan State golfer.
“My goal coming in was to make the top 64 so to be 15 and make the Sweet 16 is way more than I expected,” Pinili said. “I’m just going to keep trying my best. I have no expectations. I will play as hard as I can and whatever the result is, I will accept it.”
Haefner said he has been trying to prove to himself that he is a good player.
“In Michigan you have Ben Smith and James Piot – they are the two guys who are the best in the state in my opinion,” he said. “When you play against them, they know they are that good. I wanted to prove I’m good and that I can play against anyone, and today I had that mentality and I pulled that off.”
The “Sweet 16” includes nine college golfers, including Piot’s co-medalist and MSU teammate Andrew Walker of Battle Creek, and University of Wisconsin golfer Coalter Smith of Grosse Pointe Woods, who was a semifinalist a year ago. Michael Anderson of Northville, a 50-year-old financial advisor, is the oldest, but only by two years over Eric Spencer, an investment advisor from Bloomfield Hills.
Wednesday’s play included the conclusion of the second round of stroke play, a playoff among six golfers for the final two spots in the 64-player bracket and then the round of 64 and round of 32 matches. Play went from 7:30 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Round of 16 matches will start at 8 a.m. Thursday with the quarterfinals following in the afternoon to determine a final four golfers. The semifinal matches and the championship match are slated for Friday.
All results and the match play bracket can be found at GAM.org.
The “Sweet 16” is as follows:
James Piot, 21, Canton – golfer at Michigan State University
Lorenzo Pinili, 15, Rochester Hills – sophomore at Brother Rice High School
Coalter Smith, 19, Grosse Pointe Farms – golfer at University of Wisconsin
Michael Anderson, 50, Northville – financial advisor
Brad Bastion, 35, Shelby Twp. – financial Advisor
John Quigley, 36, St. Clair Shores – Medicare advantage director for Emergent Holdings
Grant Haefner, 22, Bloomfield Hills – golfer at Wayne State University
August Meekhof, 18, Eastmanville – golfer at Michigan State University
Andrew Walker, 22, Battle Creek – golfer at Michigan State University
Tyler Copp, 22, Ann Arbor – golfer at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.
Eric Spencer, 48, Bloomfield Hills – investment advisor
Charlie Green, 25, Ann Arbor – mechanical contractor
Tyler Rayman, 21, Otsego – golfer at Eastern Michigan University
Logan Price, 22, Grand Blanc – golfer at Florida Gulf Coast University
Sean Friel, 26, Rochester Hills – auditor for Grant Thornton
Zachary Robbins, 22, Grand Rapids – golfer at Cleveland State University
via Greg Johnson