Michigan Golf History 1971-1980
By Art McCafferty
On the international scene of the 70s the American team continued to dominate Great Britain, winning all five Ryder Cup matches. They also pocketed a number of British Opens as Tom Watson won three times, Lee Trevino twice and Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf each claiming one victory. The only non-Americans to break through were Seve Ballesteros and Gary Player.
On the national scene, it was all Jack Nicklaus as he took two U.S. Opens, four PGA Championships and two Masters. Australian David Graham won the 1979 PGA Championship held at Oakland Hills. JoAnne Carter, Hollis Stacey and Susie Berning each won the U.S. Womens Open twice.
In Michigan, Dan Pohl and Randy Erskine were clearly the Michigan players of the decade as they were featured on countless leader boards. Pohl won the Michigan Amateur twice and Erskine, along with John Grace, Robert Chapman, Rodney Sumpter, Michael Hurley, John Morse, Peter Green and Steve Maddalena, each won it once. At the Michigan Open, Erskine was to win three times while his buddy, Lynn Janson, won it twice. Long-hitting George Bayer, Tom Deaton, Ted Kondratko, Ron Fox and Bob Ackerman III each won the Michigan Open. Al Mengart won the Michigan PGA twice in the 70s with John Molenda, Larry Mancour, Glenn Stuart, Ron Aleks, Gene Bone, Buddy Whitten, Erskine and Janson each posting single wins.
Michigan built 40 new courses in the 70s with the Matthews clan continuing their monopoly of the business. However, the 70s also saw the rise of William Newcomb as a designer. Newcomb, who played the Masters as an amateur and later served as the coach of the University of Michigan golf team, has become one of Michigans best known architects. Pete Dye was Newcombs early mentor in the field, as both worked on the University of Michigans Radrick Farms course. Newcomb became heavily involved with Everett Kircher and they began to build what is now one of the foremost golf resorts in the Midwest. The Newcomb/Kircher team built the Alpine, Donald Ross and Monument courses at Boyne Mountain and the Highlands. Newcomb also went on to build the Crystal Mountain courses, the Glacier Club, Spruce Run at Grand Traverse Resort, Great Oaks, Tanglewood, Travis Pointe and the Polo Fields, to name a few. His latest creation, Calderone Farms, will open late this summer. Bay Valley Resort brought in some out-of-towners as Desmond Muirhead and Jack Nicklaus collaborated on its course. The East Course of Gull Lake was built by Charles Scott, a first step in the creation of the Gull Lake View collection of courses and the Scott family dynasty.
A tip of the tam to Jerry Ecker for catching my latest bogie on the history series. He correctly indicated that I had left out the fact that Benton Harbors Point OWoods CC was launched in 1957. Course architect, the great Robert Trent Jones Sr.
LETTER TO EDITOR:
I caddied at Lochmoor Country Club in the 60s when Charles Chick Rutan was the head pro. I enjoy looking at these history lessons on Michigan golf courses. Keep up the good work.
Please contact me with any corrections or additions at firstname.lastname@example.org
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