Zerbel Wins 2023 GAM Mid-Am

Matt Zerbel of St. Joseph Wins GAM Mid-Amateur Championship  

  HARBOR SPRINGS – Matt Zerbel of St. Joseph was playing the golf course and the GAM Mid-Amateur Championship for the first time, but he finished like he knew exactly where he was going and what he was doing. 

  Zerbel fired a final-round 6-under 65, including a 5-under 30 on the back nine on the Moor course at The Highlands in Harbor Springs Thursday, and pulled away to win the 41st edition of the state championship for amateur golfers 25-and-over and presented this year by Stifel Investment Services. 

  “It’s great to win one of these things,” said the 28-year-old who works in the family truck brokerage company in St. Joseph. “I just felt good today. I just felt calm and played well on the back nine. I’m glad I was able to hold it together and finish strong.” 

  Zerbel, who improved 10 shots from a first-round 75 on the Hills course Wednesday, had a 3-under 140 total for the tournament and was clear of the field by four shots. 

  Chet Vandenberg of Portage shot a closing 71 for 144 and the runner-up spot. 

  In addition to the overall Mid-Amateur champion, winners in three other age categories were determined (Mid-Seniors 45-and-over, Seniors 55-and-over and Super Seniors 65-and-over). 

  Billy Nelson of Kalamazoo, who shot 74 for 145 to finish third overall, was presented the Mid-Seniors 45-and-over trophy for first among the 45-and-over set. 

  Jeff Champine of Rochester Hills, who shot 73 for 146 and was tied for fourth overall with 76-shooting Greg Davies of West Bloomfield, was awarded the Mid-Seniors runner-up trophy. 

  Kevin Vandenberg of Pulaski, N.Y., a Mattawan native and the 2000 Mid-Amateur champion, won the Senior title. He shot a closing even-par 72 on the Hills course for a 1-over 145 total and the win by three shots. 

  David LeVan of Ann Arbor, who closed with a 74 for 148, was the Senior runner-up, and Greg Zeller of Jackson, who shot 74 for 151 was third. 

  Ian Harris of Bloomfield won his third age group title in the championship and second Super Senior title (Senior 2015, Super Senior 2019). The 70-year-old tennis pro shot fired a 4-under 68, the low round of the tournament on the Hills course, for a 146 total. 

  John Barbour of Grand Rapids, who shot 72 for 148, and Mike Raymond of Jackson, who also shot 72 for 148, tied for second. Barbour was presented the runner-up trophy via a scorecard playoff. Jim Lewis of Novi was next with a 71 for 149. 

 Zerbel, who will have his name inscribed on the Glenn H. Johnson Trophy and earlier this summer won the Michigan PGA State Pro-Am with Midland Country Club pro Jim Deiters, said his wedge game was much improved Thursday over Wednesday. 

  “I was hitting it close and I was making the putts,” he said. “I started to feel the pressure on 12 when I looked at the scores and knew I had a chance. But I started feeling it again, hit a few close and made a few birdies in a row (four consecutive on holes 14-17). I was in the final group at the GAM Championship, played poorly and was disappointed in that. But I was able to close it today.” 

  The former Columbus State University of Georgia golfer said he played conservatively off the tee on the Moor because it was his first time on the course. 

  “I didn’t really know where to hit it, but I kept it in good spots and hit my irons well,” he said.  

  The 57-year-old Vandenberg, who maintains a GAM membership each summer and owns his own financial planning firm, said it always feels great to win something. 

  “Plus, it’s just always good to come here to Boyne and see a bunch of guys I know, see all my friends and stuff and have fun, and I played well and it was a lot of fun,” he said. 

  He said the key was his finish with a par-save from off the green on 15 following a birdie on the par 3 14th. He then said he played the par 5 No. 18 conservatively for the first time ever. 

  “I’ve never gone around the water like that,” he said and laughed. “I just told myself, slow down, focus on the shot, hit 3-wood off the tee, and just get it in and win.” 

  Harris said at age 70 it felt wonderful to win again among the Super Seniors. 

  “I hit the ball beautifully both days, but coming down the stretch I felt a lot of nerves,” he said. “I was able to get it up and down at 16 for par when I hit a stinker of a tee shot left. What did Billie Jean King say, being nervous is a privilege or something like that. So, it was great to be nervous and see that I could do it again.” 

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