REDFORD – Western Golf & Country Club and its classic Donald Ross-designed golf course will host the top Golf Association of Michigan male golfers for the 99th GAM Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland Monday and Tuesday.
Defending champion Mitchell White of Muskegon, a two-time champion, returns to defend his title as part of a field of 84 golfers playing 54 holes over two days.
A new clubhouse is nearing completion at Western. Fire destroyed the original clubhouse in June of 2018 and the club still hosted the Michigan Women’s Amateur just a few weeks later. The course and the pro shop, snack shop and starter facilities closer to the course were not damaged in the fire.
Western, with its narrow fairways and undulating small greens, is hosting the GAM Championship for the third time, and first time since 1978. In ’78, J. Scott Campbell won his first of two consecutive championships. The first time the club hosted the GAM Championship was 1957. Eugene Woodward was the champion that year.
Western has hosted several other GAM tournaments and qualifiers over the years, including three Michigan Women’s Amateur Championships, and can name drop with the nation’s most historical courses.
In April of 1927, the course’s first year, golf legend Walter Hagen, then the reigning British Open champion, played the reigning U.S. Open champion Johnny Farrell in an exhibition match at Western. Hagen won. Gene Sarazen is another golf legend who played a match at the club as well.
In 1956 the club hosted the Motor City Open won by Bob Rosburg. In 1960 Western hosted the Western Golf Association’s Western Open, which at time was regarded as one of the major championships on the PGA Tour. Stan Leonard beat Art Wall in a playoff.
Jason Iding is the general manager, Brandon DiPaola is the head PGA professional at Western and Michael Montney is the superintendent. Dan Longeway, a GAM governor, and rules official and Western member is the chairman of the championship.
Ken Hartmann, senior director of competitions for the GAM, said the Western golf course is typical of a Donald Ross design in that it has character and requires skillful shot placement.
“I don’t think you can overpower it even though it is not overly long mainly because of the river that winds through it and that on almost all of the holes there are penalty areas,” he said. “The greens are small, firm and fast and if you miss them it’s a struggle to save par. You can’t just hit it and go at Western. You play smart off the tee and when hitting to the greens. It will determine a champion who has a complete game.”
The GAM Championship, like Western, has a rich history. It dates to 1919 with two years in which it wasn’t played during World War II. Past winners include Michigan golf legends like James Standish, Chuck Kocsis, Bud Stevens, Glenn Johnson, and Pete Green.
This year’s field of golfers includes six past champions, including White (2015, 2019), 2018 champion James Piot of Canton, two-time winner Casey Baker of Novi (2005, 2010), 2014 champion Ryan Johnson of New Boston, 2013 champion Scott Strickland of Bloomfield Hills and 2008 champion Jimmy Chestnut of Royal Oak.
Other notables in the field include recent Michigan Amateur Champion Tyler Copp of Ann Arbor, last year’s GAM Player of the Year Dan Ellis of East Lansing and last summer’s GAM Mid-Amateur Champion Michael Coriasso of White Lake.
The field will play two rounds on Monday and a closing round on Tuesday after a 36-hole cut Monday night to the low 30 scorers and ties.
The GAM Championship traditionally boasts as strong of a field as the Michigan Amateur Championship, in large part because non-exempt players must go through sectional qualifiers to earn a spot in the final field for the championship.
Last year White shot a closing 5-under 67 to win by a dominating six shots at another Donald Ross design, Muskegon Country Club. Piot, who was the defending champion, finished second.