15-AND-UNDER BOY’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR – West Bloomfield’s Ryan O’Rourke Tops 2019 GAM Honor Roll

Link to Honor Roll: Points

  FARMINGTON HILLS – A few years ago West Bloomfield’s Ryan O’Rourke was playing hockey with the elite USA Eagles travel program.

  “I never really expected to play golf,” he said. “But a while ago my dad joined Orchard Lake Country Club and kind of forced me to try the junior golf program even though I had never really liked golf.

  “I started playing every Tuesday. It started growing on me, and then I started playing every day and I quit playing hockey. I was a good hockey player, but I never felt the connection with hockey that I feel with golf now.”

  O’Rourke, 15 and the son of Marc and Carrie O’Rourke, is the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) 15-and-under Junior Boy’s Player of the Year, Ken Hartmann, GAM senior director of rules and competitions, announced today.

  GAM Players of the Year are determined by the Honor Roll points system and totals can be found on a pull down from the Championships tab at The 15-and-under Junior Girl’s Player of the Week will be announced Friday.

   Previously, Dan Ellis of East Lansing and Yurika Tanida of East Lansing were named the Players of the Year, Steve Maddalena of Jackson and Julie Massa of Holt were named Senior Players of the Year, Ian Harris of Bloomfield was named the Super Senior Player of the Year and August Meekhof of Eastmanville and Lilia Henkel of Grand Rapids were named the Junior Players of the Year.

  O’Rourke, a freshman at Walled Lake Northern High School, highlighted his summer season with wins in the 15-and-under division of the Michigan Junior State Amateur and the GAM Junior Invitational.

  It helped him build an Honor Roll point total of 1,185. Ieuan Jones of Ann Arbor, a GAM member through Youth on Course, was second with 662 points.

  Justin Sui of Lake Orion and Twin Lakes Golf & Swim Club (543), Robert Burns of Grand Blanc and Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club (475) and Bryce Wheeler of Augusta and Gull Lake View Golf & Resort (442) rounded out the top five.

  Kyle Wolfe, who directs the junior championships for the GAM, said O’Rourke and his family made smart decisions to compete in the 15-and-under division of tournaments instead of pressing to play among the older juniors.

  “He was able to develop that feeling of winning and the ability to win, which is important as you go on to put yourself in contention in tournaments,” Wolfe said. “By the end of the year he was shooting some of the best scores of any of the juniors. He had a great round, a 67 in the GAM Invitational and won his division by several shots. It was a rainy, terrible day, too and he just lit it up. He has the game to go in the older division now and I expect him to do really well.”

 O’Rourke, who finished second recently in a junior tour event in Florida, has his eye on collegiate golf in the future. His older brother, Max, recently signed with the golf program at Wayne State University.

  “College golf would be fun,” he said. “I’m working toward that.”

  He said the work of the last year with PGA teaching professional Danny Thomas of Fox Hills Golf & Learning Center has helped him improve his putting.

  “My putting was a lot better this year,” he said. “It helped because my chipping isn’t the greatest and I have to work on improving that. I also improved on consistency with my driver. It hasn’t been that great in the past, but I was more consistent. I hit it out there farther than a lot of the guys I play with, but it hasn’t always been consistent.”

-Greg Johnson, [email protected]