Comeback Kid, Brett White, Leads Turtle Creek Casino 2020 Michigan Open
ACME – Brett White of Caledonia appears to be making yet another comeback in his still young professional golf career.
The 27-year-old mini-tour player, who three years ago this week was released from the hospital following a debilitating brain infection, fired a 6-under 66 on The Bear course at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa Monday to lead through the first round of the Turtle Creek Casino 2020 Michigan Open.
The former Eastern Michigan University golfer, playing for the first time since May due to sciatic nerve issues, had the lead on 68-shooting mini-tour pros James Holley of Howell, who finished second here in 2018, and Ben VanScoyk of Grand Rapids, who topped the last-chance qualifier into the tournament Saturday.
Six-time champion Scott Hebert of Traverse City Golf & Country Club and Ben Cook, the recent Michigan PGA Professional Champion from Yankee Springs Golf Course in Wayland, were among five golfers who shot 69 on a windy day, especially in the morning.
The others – Grand Valley State University sophomore Charles DeLong of DeWitt, former Michigan State University golfer and amateur Michael Sharp of Okemos, and 2018 Michigan Amateur champion and now professional Beau Breault of Howell.
Defending champion Eric Lilleboe of Okemos was the only golfer who shot 70 and 10 golfers shot 71.The field of 156 golfers plays again Tuesday to determine a 36-hole cut to the low 70 scorers and ties before the final two rounds Wednesday and Thursday in the $115,000 state championship.
White, who in the fall of 2019 won the Nevada Open to mark his comeback from the brain infection, said he came back too soon in May from the sciatic issues.
“I’ve just rehabbed and practiced and feel good now, really good today,” he said. “I didn’t really make many mistakes out there. I got off to a bogey start (on No. 10) but stayed really patient knowing that there was going to be plenty of birdies out there. I hit it in the right spots. If I hit it on the green it was below the hole 15 feet. I missed some putts, but I made some, too. I did everything a little above average today and it all added up to a really good round.”
White caddied two weeks ago as his younger sister Sarah took advantage of a sponsor exemption and won on the Symetra Tour to launch her professional career. He said being her caddie was a learning experience that helped him Monday.
“Being her caddie helped me in my mindset today – just knowing that players can get in their own way sometimes,” he said. “I tried to caddie myself and leave my emotions and all that out of it. I tried to stay patient and not make too many mistakes.”
After making bogey to start his round, White said back-to-back birdies on holes 11 and 12 put him back into his game plan and on the right track. He finished the day with seven birdies in the final 17 holes.
“There’s a lot of golf to go and I’m just going to stick to my game plan,” he said. “It worked today. I know there are going to be some ups and downs, but I think my game plan is solid.”
Holley, a former San Diego State golfer who moved to Michigan three years ago, became a father 14 months ago so his golf career has been on hold a bit. He has played more this summer and feels good about his start.
“I was playing with Beau (Breault) who I play golf with every day back home and live next to, so it was a comfortable pairing,” he said. “We both birdied one and that kind of set the tone for the round.”
He hit a 6-iron 203 yards to within a half-inch of the cup on the par 3 No. 17 hole and called that his highlight shot.
“I held a 6-iron up against the wind,” he said. “That was a good shot, but getting off to the good start was important, too.”
VanScoyk, 24, was one of the last three golfers to make the field of the 2020 Michigan Open. He shot a 66 at Traverse City Golf & Country Club in the last-chance qualifier Saturday and continued his under-par ways Monday.
“I got off to a good start, made eagle on 10, my first hole, by holing out a (greenside) bunker shot, and made a few of the inevitable bogeys you are going to make on The Bear, but hit it close on a few holes, too. I made a real good shot into No. 4 and birdied 5, too. Those holes can be really tough.”
The former NCAA Division III All-American for Calvin University said he is excited about the way he is playing.
“I played well Saturday, played good today and I’ll try to go low tomorrow morning and see what happens,” he said.
ABOUT GRAND TRAVERSE RESORT & CASINOS: Owned and operated by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Resort & Casinos offers world-class gaming, golf, dining, and spa amenities in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The premier properties include Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, and Leelanau Sands Casino & Lodge, along with EDC ventures Turtle Creek Market, Eagletown Market, and more. For more information, visit www.gtbindians.com, www.turtlecreekcasino.com, www.grandtraverseresort.com.
via Greg Johnson