Meijer LPGA Classic winner to join banner group of Blythefield past champions

GRAND RAPIDS – Arnold Palmer remembers Blythefield Country
Club fondly, and in a 1991 interview in Grand Rapids compared it to Latrobe
Country Club in Latrobe, Pa., a club he purchased in 1971, and where he grew up
as the son of Deacon Palmer, course superintendent and PGA professional.

“I always play a little better on great tree-lined courses like
that because I feel comfortable, like at home,” he said. “That was a good win
for me, part of a pretty good year.”

Palmer, who then was in Grand Rapids with the Senior PGA
Tour, indeed had a great year 30 summers earlier in 1961. His Western Open
Championship win at Blythefield was the fifth of six tour wins for the season,
and the sixth was his first British Open title at few weeks later at Royal

As his faithful fans in “Arnie’s Army” – described as a
large and enthusiastic gallery by local media –followed him around Blythefield,
Palmer shot rounds of 65, 70, 67 and 69 for a 13-under-par 271 total. In second
place by two shots was fellow golf legend Sam Snead, and Palmer won $5,000. It
was his biggest check of the year, one of the largest of his career at that
point and even larger than the British Open check.

“I remember I had a really good round to start the Western
that year,” Palmer said. “You got to remember, the Western Open was really a
major tournament then. Beat Sammie Snead didn’t I? It had a great purse and you
were treated so great. Everybody played in it.”

Palmer’s Western Open win is part of Blythefield’s rich
tournament history, which will add another remarkable chapter Sunday when the
Meijer LPGA Classic presented by Kraft concludes at the historic private club
located in Plainfield Township’s Belmont, just north of Grand Rapids.

It’s the LPGA’s first stop in Michigan since 2000 when the
Oldsmobile Classic in East Lansing ended it’s 9-year-run, as well as the first annual
golf event in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula since 2009 when the PGA Tour hosted
the Buick Open in Grand Blanc.  The Champions Tour, formerly known as the
Senior PGA Tour, had a 19-year run in Grand Rapids that ended in 2004.

The LPGA stars are playing a course that has changed very
little since Palmer won in ‘61, or for that matter since the Western Golf
Association’s prestigious Western Amateur was hosted by Blythefield in 1953,
and especially since 2005 when the WGA’s Western Junior Championship was played
at Blythefield and current PGA Tour star Rickey Fowler dazzled the crowd.

Fowler, known for wearing Puma’s bright line of clothing on
the PGA Tour these days, donned a black shirt and white pants for the final
round in 2005. His play dazzled, however, when he shot a closing 7-under-par 64
to post a 12-under-par 272 for the one-shot win over David Yujin Chung of
Fayetteville, N.C. Fowler, then from Murrieta, Calif., started the final round
three shots off the lead.

“I picked a number I thought I had to shoot – it was 64,”
Fowler, then 16 told the Western Golf Association communications staff and media.
“I just came out and knew what I had to do and did it. It just happened. I hit
good shots and made birdies. I knew I had to make more birdies.”

Fowler thanked Blythefield members in the trophy acceptance
ceremony and predicted his future accurately.

“I haven’t looked at any schools yet, but I plan to go to
college and then turn pro,” said Fowler who six golf seasons later would be a
former Oklahoma State golfer named the 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

Least known among Blythefield’s gallery of major tournament
champions is Dale Morey, though he was well-known in amateur golf circles at
the time, not to mention basketball. The Indiana native was a collegiate
All-American in basketball and golf at Louisiana State University.

Morey, who died in 2002, is in sports hall of fames in both
Indiana and North Carolina. He won four different state amateur titles –
Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky and Texas. The 1953 Western at Blythefield
was his biggest amateur win, and he was runner-up to Gene Littler in the 1953
U.S. Amateur. He qualified for the U.S. Amateur an amazing 27 times, and won
the U.S. Senior Amateur titles in 1974 and ’77.

As for the ’53 Western Amateur at Blythefield, he made
birdies to close like Palmer and Fowler. In the then 36-hole title match he was
8-under-par in 29 holes of play to win 8 and 6 over Dick Norton of East Grand
Rapids. That’s right, he had to beat the local favorite. Norton, who later
would win the then Grand Rapids City Championship, was a Purdue University
co-captain and just 21 years-old at the time.

Birdies down the stretch are sure to be needed today.
Another certainty, another of the world’s best golfers will join the list of
Blythefield’s major champions.

“Having the best women golfers in the world, not just the
best golfers in the city or the state, but in the world play here is another
great chapter in Blythefield history,” said Patti Butcher, the current general
manager and director of golf.

“We’re proud to be the host of the Meijer LPGA Classic
presented by Kraft. We’re excited to help bring this to the community and
partner with Meijer. It truly is historic.”