Kevin VandenBerg Adds GAM Senior Match Play Title to Resume

ANN ARBOR – Mattawan native Kevin VandenBerg, ranked the No. 1 senior amateur golfer in the country last year by Golfweek, came home to Michigan once again to claim a significant Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) victory.

The financial advisor who competes across the country and lives in Pulaski, N.Y., but maintains his GAM membership so he can visit home in the summer to play in tournaments, won the 16th GAM Senior Match Play Championship presented by Stifel Investment Services Friday.

He beat Gunnar Karlstrom of Clarkston 5 and 4 in the final match at Polo Fields Golf & Country Club to add his name to the Jerry A. Walker Memorial Trophy.

“It’s nice to come back and see everybody, all the friends from over the years, and I just love to come back to Michigan to play golf,” he said. “It’s a great bunch of guys to compete with on good golf courses and the GAM always runs great tournaments.”

A Super Senior Champion (age 65-and-over) was also crowned Friday, and it was another familiar player in Michigan golf.

Michigan Golf Hall of Famer Randy Lewis of Alma held off Ian Harris of Bloomfield 2-up in that division’s title match. The two-time Michigan Amateur champion and U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion noted he has won major GAM match play tournaments in three age categories – the Michigan Amateur, the GAM Senior Match Play and now the GAM Super Senior Match Play.

“It’s kind of cool to add that and it’s always fun to win,” Lewis said. “It’s fun to play against the guys and play some of these nice venues we have in the state. I can’t keep up with the young guys, the 55-year-olds, but I played pretty good all week and fortunately got a big lead today.”

VandenBerg, 58 and the only golfer to ever win the Michigan Amateur Championship, the GAM Championship and the GAM Mid-Amateur Championship in one season (2000), had just a 1-up lead through nine holes, but won holes 10 and 11 with pars, No. 13 with a birdie and closed out the match on 14 with a par.

“I got a little help from Gunnar, and you know, but you just keep grinding away, try to play one hole at a time and keep the match in front of you,” he said. “I played well all week, a little sloppy (Thursday), but I was fortunate and today I was solid.”

Karlstrom, a former Michigan State University golfer who is just venturing back into competitive golf at age 55, said it was a great experience and second is his best finish in a GAM-administered tournament, including junior golf and during college.

“I played well all week and beat some great players, but Kevin is such an accomplished player and he doesn’t give you anything,” he said. “So, I’m sitting here and asking him to give me advice, impart some wisdom so I can grow as a golfer. Even at 55 you always want to improve and have things to work on, and Kevin is really gracious with his time and knowledge. I can take a lot away from this.”

Karlstrom reached the finals with a 1-up semifinal win over defending champion Mike Ignasiak of Saline Thursday afternoon, while VandenBerg earned his final match slot with a 5 and 3 win over Leo Daigle of Wixom.

The Super Senior final was set up when Randy Lewis beat Jim Lewis of Novi 3 and 1 Thursday, and Harris, a past Super Senior champion, knocked out fellow past Super Senior champion Mike Raymond of Jackson, 5 and 4.

“No question Randy was the better player today,” Harris said. “I helped him get a big lead (5-up through eight holes) and then Randy played solid like Randy Lewis always plays. He missed a few shots on the back nine and I had a chance, but he didn’t make enough mistakes for me to catch him.”

-Greg Johnson

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