FARMINGTON HILLS – Phil Holmblade of Grand Blanc never considered he would be chosen as the 2021 Golf Association of Michigan Course Rater of the Year.
“Unbelievable, I just enjoy doing it, being active,” he said. “My wife (Pama) and I started doing it in late 2017 and we have been doing it ever since. I knew some other people who were named the Course Rater of the Year in the last few years. It was nice for them because they volunteer a lot of their time. It was just never anything I thought I would be chosen for and it caught me off guard.”
Kyle Wolfe, the GAM’s director of handicapping and course rating, said Holmblade was chosen because he is dedicated to the course rating program and is a vital piece of what the 108 GAM volunteer course raters did over 54 ratings this year.
“He is always willing to help out in a lot of different parts of the state, very friendly and easy to work with and he has a passion for golf and helping out and volunteering,” he said. “I know he volunteers for some other golf events, like the Ally Challenge, and in Tucson over the winter and he has a great understanding and passion for how we do the ratings.”
The award is presented annually to the course rater who demonstrates outstanding proficiency with the Course Rating System™ and is committed to helping grow and develop the GAM Course Rating program.
Holmblade is retired from a career as a licensed civil engineer and Pama is a registered nurse now retired. The majority of his career was with SSOE Group engineering firm, and he understandably likes the math and measuring part of doing course ratings.
“It opens up a different dimension to understanding golf and playing golf,” he said. “It certainly makes you think about your game differently.”
He has been playing golf since high school and most often through corporate leagues.
“I look at golf differently because of rating,” he said. “I see the factors that go into developing the criteria that helps us develop a rating.”
Holmblade and Pama took part in 39 ratings this year.
“We would have made it to 40 if one wouldn’t have been cancelled there late in the year,” he said. “It averages out to about two a week for us.”
They spend time in Tucson between February and April, and then its back to the Flint area where he has lived since the 1970s, and back to Michigan golf.
“As long as we enjoy it we’ll keep doing it,” he said. “It keeps us active and it’s interesting and fun to be a part of it.”
In addition to Holmblade being named the Course Rater of the Year, the GAM chose Lisa Stewart-Visniski as the Rookie of the Year and Robert Bennett as the Trainer of the Year. Like Holmblade they will be invited to the GAM’s Annual Meeting in the spring where they will be introduced and honored along with other GAM award winners.
The GAM Course Rating Program typically rates 50 or more courses each year across the state, and the raters are volunteers who collect raw data for the Course Rating System. It is one of the many services provided to Michigan golf by the GAM and is dependent on volunteers like Holmblade.
Course raters are typically avid golfers who have an analytical inclination and the process orientation to apply the methodology while evaluating the course. Their data collection helps to produce the course ratings needed to apply the World Handicap System™ via the GAM and the United States Golf Association®.
“We couldn’t do it without volunteers,” Wolfe said. “The fun part is they get to play golf courses around the state, but it’s after they have put in the work and made the handicap system possible for all golfers.”