FARMINGTON HILLS – John Schulte has been the ultimate volunteer in multiple and various capacities from president to club representative and even voluntary temporary employee for the Golf Association of Michigan over the last 25 years.
“Golf is a lifetime experience and when I started getting involved with the GAM it opened me up to new friends, the other volunteers, the players and it has been a wonderful experience,” said the Bingham Farms resident, member of Birmingham Country Club and current President of the GAM Foundation.
“It has made my life much more rewarding.”
Schulte, 81, was named the winner of the 2019 Golf Association of Michigan Distinguished Service Award Monday during a virtual Spring Meeting of the GAM Board of Governors. The award plaque will be presented at a site and time later this summer that is yet to be determined.
“John Schulte exemplifies the qualities and spirit of what the GAM Distinguished Service Award is all about,” said 2019 GAM President Chris Angott regarding the GAM’s presentation of its highest award.
“The list of his service to the game of golf in Michigan are many. However, his involvement in the development of the GAM Foundation, and leadership as President, has been critical in helping our organization fulfill an important role in service to Michigan golf. The continued success and growth of the Youth On Course programming has been a result of his hard work and passion to help others.”
Schulte said he was humbled and delighted to hear he was being given the award.
“I suppose I understand why people might have voted for me because I have been highly visible with the GAM,” he said. “I started as a club representative for Birmingham Country Club and I’ve helped in a lot of different capacities, as a rules official, as an officer for six years, and I even stepped in and worked as a staff member for eight months when the association had some staff leadership transition in 2000.
“My experience being an officer was outstanding. I was assistant secretary, then secretary, then vice-president and president over six years and I worked with wonderful people,” he said. “David Graham was the executive director we brought on and I can’t think of a bad experience I’ve had working with the association. We’ve had some ups and downs and different ideas along the way, but all in all it is a group that loves golf and gets along very well. Everybody shares an interest in serving and growing the game.”
Schulte, who at age 80 last summer walked and officiated matches in the Michigan Amateur Championship at Oakland Hills, remembers his first hands-on involvement as a volunteer for the GAM. He worked as a rules official for the NCAA Central Regional Tournament hosted by the University of Michigan Golf Course in 1996.
“That was really exciting team golf and I was hooked,” he said. “After that I started working 20 tournaments or so a year for the GAM.”
His favorite events to work are the Michigan Amateur Championship and Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship because they come down to a match play bracket to determine a winner.
“I really enjoy match play, walking with the match, being close to the players as they work through the game and the pressure of a match,” he said. “No two matches are ever the same and momentum and confidence changes. It’s just fun to be a part of that no matter the level of play.”
The most memorable match he said he has worked was the final match of the 101st Michigan Amateur Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club’s North Course in 2012, the same year he served as President of the GAM.
Drew Preston of Ada, fresh from his golf season at Bowling Green State University, faced off against past champion Tom Werkmeister of Grand Rapids, whom Preston has called one of his golf role models, in the final. Preston won 2-up with a birdie on the 18th hole to cap a thrilling match.
“Drew was younger and it seemed he should dominate with the way he hit the ball, but Tom, Player of the Decade, a great champion, kept proving he was in the match over and over again,” he said. “It was two great players, a tight match to the end and you could feel the pressure. They both wanted to win so much, and then there was great sportsmanship. You could tell they truly respected each other and the game.”
Schulte, an accountant, realtor, and real-estate consultant, cites golf as his primary hobby. He has also been involved with the Genisys Credit Union’s Board of Directors since 1988.
“Being part of Genisys has been a great experience over time as well,” he said. “I stay busy, enjoy working with the (GAM) Foundation because it’s truly growing the game through Youth on Course, but I’m not too busy for some golf. I’ve never been a very good golfer, but I love to play. I think I just love the game, and that includes being on the course seeing great players do things like us, things they wish didn’t happen, and then things we could never do.”
Schulte’s dream foursome, besides himself, would include legend Arnold Palmer, Ray Maguire, a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member and longtime Birmingham Country Club golf professional, and entertainment legend and avid golfer Bing Crosby.
“That would be enjoyable,” he said. “Of course, I reserve the right to change the foursome up. There are so many people I would love to play a round of golf with and I think we all want to keep on trying to make the next round the best one.”
-Greg Johnson [email protected]