GAM

GOLF ASSOCIATION OF MICHIGAN

MICHIGAN AMATEUR: Dales, Miller, Biagioli, Zerbel Reach Final Four

Written By: Greg Johnson

HARBOR SPRINGS – Jimmy Dales of Northville, Drew Miller of East Lansing, McCoy Biagioli of White Lake and Matt Zerbel of St. Joseph will play in the semifinal matches of the 113th Michigan Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland Friday morning.

Dales, 23 and a recent graduate of the University of Wyoming, and Miller, who is 18 and in the fall is staying close to home to play golf at Michigan State University, will meet at 8 a.m. on The Heather course at The Highlands at Harbor Springs.

Biagioli, who is 18 and a Ferris State University golfer, meets Matt Zerbel, a 29-year-old produce broker, at 8:15.

The winners of those matches will meet in the championship match at approximately 12:30 p.m., and they will be playing with extra motivation.

In addition to the honor and achievement of being a Michigan Amateur champion, and having their name added to the historic Staghorn Trophy, the winner for the first time also receives an exemption into the 2024 U.S. Amateur Championship, which will be played at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., Aug. 12-18.

Dales, who is in the semifinals for the second consecutive year, said the chance to earn a spot in the U.S. Amateur without having to go through qualifying was part of his motivation for remaining an amateur for this summer before turning professional.

“That and this is also one of my favorite tournaments at one of my favorite places,” he said. “It feels great to be back. Last year, I obviously fell short and it’s good to be having another good run this year.”

Dales earned this year’s semifinal berth by beating Grand Valley State University golfer Drew Coble of Lake Orion 4 and 3 in the morning round of 16, and then beating Saginaw Valley State University golfer Shea Harmeson of Traverse City, 3 and 1, in the quarterfinals.

“I played two really good players and had good matches,” Dales said. “I didn’t make any bogeys today, so I made it pretty hard on them, kept the pressure on.”

Miller, who is playing in his first Michigan Amateur, said he wanted to make a run in the championship and top his father Kevin’s best showing, which was reaching the quarterfinals in 1997 at the University of Michigan. Ironically, his father, who is his caddie this week, was also a Michigan Amateur stroke play medalist in 1998 on The Heather course.

“This means a lot,” he said. “My dad, the farthest he ever made it was the elite eight, so to be able to one-up him means a lot to me.”

Miller earned his semifinal spot with a 2 and 1 round of 16 win over Jack Zubkus of Ada, an Oakland University golfer after transferring from Penn State University, and then topped Adam Burghardt, a Wayne State University golfer from Clinton Township, 3 and 2 in the quarterfinal match.

“I played really solid golf this afternoon and this morning,” he said. “I just didn’t really make many mistakes and give the guys any opportunities. I didn’t do anything crazy. I just stuck to my game plan and knew if I did that, I could win my matches.”

Biagioli, who is also playing in his first Michigan Amateur, had to beat a former Ferris teammate, Caleb Bond of Williamston, in the round of 16, and it wasn’t easy. In fact, it took 26 holes, eight extra, one short of the Michigan Amateur record for extra-hole matches, before he topped Bond, now a Michigan State golfer, 1-up.

Then he had to tangle with recent MSU graduate Tommy Sullivan of Grosse Pointe in the quarterfinal match, and he said his putter was great in the 6 and 5 win.

“Let’s see, I played 39 holes and I had 12 birdies today,” he said. “Today it was the putter, but I also didn’t miss many greens and gave myself a lot of good looks (at birdie). The match with Caleb was so tough. In the eight extra holes Caleb was 2-under and I was 3-under and neither of us made any bogeys. It was really fun. Caleb was a teammate. We both played great and I was fortunate to win.”

Biagioli said this is already his biggest amateur accomplishment, but he doesn’t want to stop now.

“The goal is to win,” he said. “I’m not surprised with the way I’ve hit the ball and putted, but I have surprised myself mentally. I handled 26 holes, and then kept it rolling in the next match and kept myself mentally in it.”

Zerbel, the 2023 GAM Mid-Amateur champion, reached the quarterfinals a year ago and returned this year believing he can win the championship.

“I believe if I play well, I can win, so that was my goal, but it’s not like I would be disappointed if it ends here,” he said. “To make the final four is really hard, but now that I’m here I want to keep going, and if I play well, I have that chance.”

Zerbel took on the youngest player in the field, 15-year-old J.P. Levan of Grand Rapids in the round of 16 and emerged with a 3 and 1 win. Then he beat Chet VandenBerg of Portage 4 and 3 in the quarterfinals.

“My driving was off last week, but I figured out what was going on and I’ve hit it pretty well this week,” he said. “No crazy misses so far and that has helped a lot.”

Zerbel said winning the Mid-Amateur last year is his biggest golf accomplishment, but he is ready to top it.

“Winning this and getting the exemption into the U.S. Am, that would be very big,” he said.

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