A True Michigan Event
By Jack Saylor
The Michigan Amateur tournament is a true Michigan event. The first championship was held in Grand Rapids in 1906 and the tourney moved from there to Saginaw, Detroit, Flint, Jackson and up north for the first time at Charlevoix's Belvedere in 1930-31, joining Saginaw Country Club, Country Club of Detroit and Gull Lake Country Club as favored sites.
When the Detroit District Golf Association began conducting the Amateur after World War II, the tourney became centralized and rotated almost exclusively between Belvedere, Black River Country Club in Port Huron and the Country Club of Jackson. The onset of the Chuck Kocsis Era in 1930 signaled a domination of the championship by Detroit-area players, as he was joined by fellow Detroiters Bob Babbish, Fred Kammer, Ziggy Zawadski, Sam Kocsis, Jim Funston, Ben Smith, plus Royal Oak's Ed Ervasti and Tom Draper of Berkley in playing in the title rounds.
Only the occasional intrusion of Flint's Bill Barclay and Fred Turner and a pair of Lansing stars, Lou Wendrow and Reggie Myler Jr., interrupted the metropolitan Detroit area title role.
When Glenn Johnson began his amazing streak of match play success with his title in 1954, metro Detroit, continued to flourish. The Grosse Ile wonder worker won five times in the next nine years and the only times he didn't, the Staghorn Trophy remained close by as Melvin (Bud) Stevens and brother, Donald, each captured the crown once and two others went to Pontiac standouts Lloyd Syron and Mike Andonian. But Western Michigan golfers were being excluded more and more, not by design, but due to the development of courses in their own area and events like the Grand Rapids City and West Michigan Championships which were looked on with increasing favor in that sector.
Shortly after the GAM took over the Amateur, the move was made, permanently shifting the_ Amateur to Belvedere. Beginning in 1963, Belvedere hosted the Amateur for 26 consecutive years. This was great, particularly for some of the participants, many of the governors, the press and some hangerson in this venue. The surroundings are unmatched, the old course is testing and made to order for match play. But while it did seem to attract a few more out-state combatants to the tourney, the expenses involved in the trek to Charlevoix, plus the limit of practice and clubhouse facilities combined to keep many away - particularly the young college set without deep pockets.
Out-staters like Doug Hankey of St. Johns, Lynn Janson, then an MSU star, Denny Vass and Steve Maddalena of Jackson, eventually a three-time winner, Rod Sumpter of Grand Blanc, Mike Hurley of Albion, Dave Graulau of Alma, even a couple of West Michigan invaders, Randy Erksine of Battle Creek and Marshall's John Morse, along with the Mt. Pleasant bomber Dan Pohl, captured titles.
Through it all, metro Detroit maintained its exalted position as non-pareil Peter Green of Franklin won the first three of his championships, plus victories by Bill McDonald of Troy, John R. Johnson of Rochester, John Morgan and Pat Chisholm of Birmingham and Dave Van Loozen of Union Lake ascended the throne.
In 1988 the return to moving the Amateur around the state widened the focus and the competition became more intense than ever. Greybeards like Green, Grand Blanc's Greg Reynolds, Del DeWindt of Bloomfield Hills and Flint's John Lindholm were perennial contenders. They were joined in the chase by midammers like Maddalena and Randy Lewis, the up-state tiger from Alma, long-hitting Kevin Vandenberg of Kalamazoo, DGC star Bill O'Connor, Russ Cunningham and others.
Soon the overriding change was the heightening of interest in college golf. The young lions included the likes of Josh Mondry of Franklin, Heath Fell of Lapeer, Brian Atkinson of Cassopolis, Doug LaBelle of Mt. Pleasant, Michael Harris of Troy, Shawn Koch of Howell, Stephen Polanski of Livonia, Andy Matthews of Ada, Korey Mahoney of East Lansing and the parade of young MSU aces, Yuper John Koskinen, Andy Ruthkoski, Casey Lubahn and Eric Jorgensen.
Now, there was always something always special about the tournament coming back to Belvedere where it seemed to allow the older players a chance. The pattern was always very similar back then as the troops hit Charlevoix. Could Johnson, the old warhorse who kept qualifying for match play in his 60s - do it again? Could Green the grinder, continue his ageless magic? Could lightning strike and maybe the two old foes, who first tangled in 1956 when Peter was merely 15 years old collide in a match made in heaven? Could Bud Stevens' back hold up to the stern test of double rounds?
How would annual title contenders do -the private dubbers like Mark Timyan, Roy Schultheiss, John Morgan, and Greg Reynolds, and publinx stars such as Billy McDonald, Mike Kerr and Johnny Johnson? Schultheiss and Morgan broke through, so did McDonald and Johnson, the others fired, fell back and left their mark. Just as memorable were evenings spent at the Grey Gables, where the irrepresssible Johnson, usually goaded by his running mate, Freddy Behymer, would lead festive sessions of sing-a-longs by the piano ... ah, but that's another story for another time.
For a variety of reasons it's great to get back to Belvedere in Charlevoix the Beautiful. In 2025, the Michigan Amateur will return again in celebration of its 100th anniversary.
*Jack Saylor was the long-time golf writer for the Detroit Free Press for 43-years, a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, and covered many Michigan Amateurs at Belvedere.
These are the past 40 winners and runners-up at the Michigan Amateur Championships held at Belvedere Golf Club
1930 – Chuck Kocsis (Detroit) def. James D. Standish, Jr. (Detroit) 9-7
1931 – Rex Bigelow (Jackson) def. Lawrence Wood (Detroit) 1 up
1935 – Bob Babbish (Detroit) def. Ed Novak (Traverse City) 36 holes
1940 – Zygmund Zawadzki (Detroit) def. Fred Kammer, Jr. (Detroit) 2 & 1
1941 – Sam Kocsis (Detroit) def. Ronnie Williams (Detroit) 3 & 2
1946 – Louis Wendrow (Lansing) def. Harold Brink (Grand Rapids) 1 up
1948 – Chuck Kocsis (Royal Oak) def. Ben Smith (Detroit) 1 up
1951 – Chuck Kocsis (Royal Oak) def. Ted Kuzma (Jackson) 4 & 3
1952 – Fred Turner (Flint) def. Dick Whiting (Royal Oak) 1 up, 36 holes
1953 – Reggie Myles, Jr. (East Lansing) def. Ed Ervasti (Royal Oak) 5 & 4, 36 holes
1957 – Lloyd Syron (Pontiac) def. John Kurach (Detroit) 3 & 2
1958 – Glenn Johnson (Grosse Ile) def. Tom Draper, Jr. (Berkley) 1 up
1963 – Melvin “Bud” Stevens (Detroit) def. Glenn Johnson (Grosse Ile) 1 up
1964 – Doug Hankey (St. Johns) def. Steve Uzelac (Detroit) 5 & 4
1965 – Melvin “Bud” Stevens (Detroit) def. Chris Mile (Stanton) 5 & 4
1966 – Robert Meyer (Niles) def. Cliff Taylor (Spring Lake) 5 & 4
1967 – William Newcomb (Ann Arbor) def. John Grace (Detroit) 3 & 2
1968 – Lynn Janson (East Lansing ) def. Don Stevens (Detroit) 5 & 4
1969 – Peter Green (Franklin) def. Mike Fedewa (Portland) 2 & 1
1970 – Dennis Vass (Jackson) def. Rod Sumpter (Grand Blanc) 1 up
1971 – John Grace (Detroit) def. Randy Erskine (Battle Creek) 4 & 2
1972 – Randy Erskine (Battle Creek) def. Mark Henrickson (Grand Blanc) 21 holes
1973 – Robert Chapman (Farmington) def. Dr. Wayne Kramer (Grand Blanc) 5 & 3
1974 – Rod Sumpter (Grand Blanc) def. Keith Mohan (Grand Blanc) 3 & 2
1975 – Dan Pohl (Mt. Pleasant) def. Melvin “Bud” Stevens (Detroit) 20 holes
1976 – Mike Hurley (Albion) def. Rick Vershure (Pontiac) 1 up
1977 – Dan Pohl (Mt. Pleasant) def. Mark Spiekerman (Saginaw) 4 & 2
1978 – John Morse (Marshall) def. Dr. Mark Engleman (Grand Blanc) 20 holes
1979 – Peter Green (Franklin) def. Steve Braun (Flint) 2 & 1
1980 – Steve Maddalena (Jackson) def. John Morse (Battle Creek) 5 & 4
1981 – Bill McDonald (Royal Oak) def. Jim Gittleman (West Bloomfield) 4 & 3
1982 – Dave Graulau (Alma) def. Mike Kerr (Livonia) 21 holes
1983 – John R. Johnson (Rochester) def. Mark Chapleski (Flushing) 3 & 2
1984 – Roy Schultheiss (Bay City) def. Mark Timyan (Grand Blanc) 19 holes
1985 – John Morgan (Birmingham) def. Peter Green (Franklin) 1 up
1986 – Peter Green (Franklin) def. Greg Reynolds (Grand Blanc) 3 & 2
1987 – Pat Chisholm (Birmingham) def. Pete Walz (Jackson) 19 holes
1988 – Dave VanLoozen (Union Lake) def. Darren Veitch (Livonia) 3 & 2
2003 – Colby Beckstrom (North Muskegon) def. A. J. Balulis (Baldwin) 5 & 3
2014 – Henry Do (Canton) def. Steve Anderson (Troy) 19 holes