MICHIGAN AMATEUR: Medalist Scott Strickland is Wary Top Seed

Written By: Greg Johnson

HARBOR SPRINGS – Scott Strickland said he always wants to score as low as possible, and he is honored to be the stroke play medalist of the 113th Michigan Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland on The Heather course at The Highlands at Harbor Springs.

“Being medalist is huge, but sometimes that number one seed that goes with it can be a curse in match play,” the Bloomfield Hills resident said after shooting an even-par 71 Tuesday for a two-round total of 7-under 135. “I just remember in the past the medalist sometimes drawing a great golfer who just had a bad day in stroke play, so I’m wary of that. There are so many good players in the field.”

Strickland, a 41-year-old senior vice president for Stanley Morgan, set the table for top seed honors with a 7-under 64 first-round Monday. As the top seed his name will be inscribed on the historic Chuck Kocsis Medalist Trophy, and he will meet the 64 seed in the first match in the round of 64 Wednesday.

Matt Otsby of Kingsley, who shot 79 in the second round, earned the 64th spot by surviving a two-hole,10-golfer playoff at 152 for the last five spots. The group played hole 18 twice with Otsby getting the last spot with a bogey. Ironically, his brother, Paul Otsby from Westland, was the last golfer out.

Strickland, a two-time GAM Mid-Amateur champion and 2013 GAM Champion finished clear of the field by three shots.

Evan McDermott, a University of Nebraska golfer from Spring Lake, shot a 70 for 138 and was tied with Joe Montpas of Flushing, who shot 68.

Montpas was the low amateur in the Michigan Open Championship last week at Oakland University and ended up tied for third, five shots off the score of champion Eric Lilleboe of Okemos, a PGA Tour Americas player.

Charles DeLong of DeWitt and Texas Tech, a co-medalist in 2022, shot 70 for 139 and was tied with Ian Masih, an Okemos High School golfer who shot 69.

Matt Zerbel of St. Joseph, a semifinalist a year ago, and Evan Johnson of Grosse Ile, a Northwood University golfer, were next at 141. Zerbel shot 70 and Johnson 71 in the second round.

Strickland said the wind was consistently tough and the course played a little harder than on Monday. He was over-par through most of the round but birdied two of his final three holes.

“There were some really good pin positions out there,” he said. “And, I think, for me following up a really good round is always challenging so I probably made a couple of defensive swings where I was just trying to kind of steer it instead of just letting it go. Thankfully, I played a good back nine and got it back to even. I hit some good shots coming in, hit the drives that you really need to have out there. I’m not disappointed ever to take even-par on The Heather and I would have taken it at the start of the day.”

Strickland has cause for concern regarding being the top seed. Three times in the last six Michigan Amateurs the top seed has been beaten by the 64-seed. DeLong was a co-medalist and top seed in 2022 who lost in the first round. Tyler Copp of Ann Arbor, the 2020 champion, was medalist in 2021 and lost to the 64-seed. And in 2018, Andrew Walker of Battle Creek set the championship stroke play record of 131 with rounds of 65 and 66 at Country Club of Detroit only to fall in the first match to No. 64.

“The goal is always to get in match play and then play consistently, stay solid, stay steady and stay in each shot, each hole and the match,” Strickland said. “I feel good about my game and getting your name on a cool trophy is not a bad thing.”

Winners in the morning round Wednesday of 64 advance to the afternoon round of 32 to identify the celebrated “Sweet 16.” The round of 16 and quarterfinals are on Thursday and the semifinals and championship match is scheduled for Friday.

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