Jun 12, 2024

Strong Michigan Amateur Field Takes on The Heather at The Highlands

HARBOR SPRINGS – Memorable golf happened when The Heather course of The Highlands at Harbor Springs previously hosted the Michigan Amateur Championship.

 Defending champion August Meekhof of Eastmanville has turned professional, but 12 of last year’s “Sweet 16” return to make memories in the 113th edition of the state amateur championship presented by Carl’s Golfland, Monday through Friday, June 17-21.

 This will be the fifth visit for the state’s amateur championship to The Heather, the first course built among the 10 courses at the Boyne Resorts in Michigan, and it has four tough acts to follow.

  • In 1998 Shawn Koch of Howell beat Stephen Polanski of Livonia 2 and 1 in the final match. Koch, who also won the GAM Championship that summer, went on to an award-winning PGA professional teaching career in Georgia. He is currently the director of instruction at The Atlanta Athletic Club.
  • In 2006 Greg Davies of West Bloomfield beat Ryan Brehm of Mount Pleasant 5 and 4 in the final match. Davies, GAM Senior Champion in 2023, is a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, was in the Sweet 16 a year ago and is back in the field this year at age 56. Brehm, the 2007 Amateur champion, currently plays on the PGA Tour.
  • In 2011 Willie Mack III of Flint beat defending champion Joey Garber of Petoskey 4 and 3 in the final match. Mack III played on the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour in 2023, as did Garber, who has also played on the PGA Tour in recent years. Mack also played in the recent U.S. Open Championship.
  • In 2020 Tyler Copp of Ann Arbor beat James Piot of Canton 2 and 1 in the final match. Copp has since turned professional and is playing mini-tour golf around the country. Piot, a two-time GAM Champion, went on to win the U.S. Amateur championship in 2021 and in 2022 and 2023 played on the LIV tour.

 “It seems like the best players from our tournaments on The Heather have all gone on to do something more at another level,” said Ken Hartmann, senior director of competitions and USGA services for the Golf Association of Michigan, which annually administers the state championship.

“I think it shows that over the week of a championship with the best players, The Heather proves who has the all-around game.”

 Casey Powers, the director of golf for Boyne Resorts, agreed with Hartmann’s assessment.

 “The golf course makes you hit every shot, it has multiple dogleg holes, there are times where you can hit driver, and other times where you have to gear down and keep it in play,” he said. “It becomes the ultimate test. You have to hit great irons, and with the big, tilted greens, you have to putt well.”

Hartmann said players must have a plan for The Heather.

“The scoring side is on the back, it’s a little more open but that doesn’t mean you can just bomb it, especially on the last few holes, and 18 with the second shot over the pond makes for great drama and viewing,” he said. “The first six, seven holes through the woods on the front side are difficult. You have to control your golf ball or you will be in the penalty areas. The Heather is a great test of golf.”

The Heather, credited with launching the resort golf industry in Northern Michigan was designed by legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr.

Boyne Golf features three resorts in Michigan including The Highlands. Golf joined skiing for Boyne starting with The Heather 58 years ago when the late Michigan Golf Hall of Famer Everett Kircher, in large part to keep his ski resort employees around and working during the snowless summer months, decided to get into the golf business. He sought out Jones, the most popular and successful architect of that era, and commissioned him to design a course. It opened in 1966.

Named in 2018 the Michigan Golf Course of the Year by the Michigan Golf Course Association and in 2019 the National Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association, The Heather plays at a maximum of 7,118-yards. It is consistently ranked among the best golf courses in Michigan by various outlets.

The last eight champions of the Michigan Amateur are now professionals, but this year’s starting field of 156 golfers taking on The Heather includes two past champions in Davies and Andrew Chapman of Traverse City, who won in 2013 at Muskegon Country Club.

Back from last year’s “Sweet 16,” in addition to Davies, is Jimmy Dales of Northville, a former University of Wyoming golfer who was a semifinalist a year ago, and the 2022 runner-up Patrick Deardorff of Clarkston and Eastern Michigan University.

Other final 16 players returning are Brad Bastion of Shelby Township, Mike Anderson of Northville, Jack Zubkus of Ada and Penn State University, Lorenzo Pinili of Rochester Hills and Michigan State University, Scott Strickland of Bloomfield Hills, Kyle Petrovich of Royal Oak, Matt Zerbel of St. Joseph, Jared Lyons of Portage and Anthony Sorentino of Rochester Hills. Lyons was a semifinalist a year ago, and Sorentino was the runner-up in 2018.

The starting field will play two rounds of stroke play Tuesday and Wednesday to determine the match-play field of 64. Two rounds of matches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday will determine the champion.

An added element to this year’s Michigan Amateur is the winner receiving an exemption into the 2024 U.S. Amateur Championship. The USGA recently added the winners of selected state championships to the exemptions lists for its national championships.



CONTACTS: Mary Jo Green, GAM senior director of communications, mjgreen@gam.org  248-904-5640; Greg Johnson, GAM media consultant, gjohnson@gam.org 616-560-8995.