BY Gregory Johnson
FLINT – The 98th Michigan PGA Professional Championship is Monday through Wednesday at Flint Golf Club.
The state championship for Michigan PGA Section golf professionals also serves as the starting point and qualifier on the road to major championship golf with the best players in the world at the PGA Championship of 2020.
Defending section champion Lee Houtteman, a PGA Life Member out of Glen Arbor, heads the field of 132 professionals, including 14 past champions, in the $55,000 championship on the storied Flint Golf Club course designed by famed architect Willie Park Jr.
A cut will be made to the low 60 scorers and ties after Tuesday’s second round in the 54-hole tournament. The low nine golfers at the end of the tournament – along with Scott Hebert of Traverse City Golf & Country Club, Jeff Roth of Boyne Golf Academy and Ben Cook of Yankee Springs Golf Course in Wayland who are exempt from qualification by the PGA of America based on past performances – will play in the 2020 PGA Professional National Championship, April 26-29 at Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas.
The low 20 finishers from that national championship move on to play with the best players in the world at next year’s PGA Championship May 14-17 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif.
Eight-time Michigan PGA Professional champion Hebert (2006, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11, ’12, ’14, ’16) and four-time champion Roth (1998, ’99, 2001, ’03) are two of 14 former champions in the field at Flint, including defending champion Houtteman, 2017 champion John Seltzer of Seltzer Golf School in Grand Rapids, three-time winner Brian Cairns of Fox Hills Learning Center (1996, 2000, 2013), two-time winner Steve Brady of Oakland Hills Country Club (1993, ’95), two-time winner Barry Redmond of Crooked Tree Golf Club (1990, ‘92), Dan Urban of Gull Lake Country Club (2015), Ron Beurmann of Country Club of Jackson (2010), Joe Pollack of Golf Cars Plus (2004), Tom Harding of Carl’s Golfland (1997), Jack Seltzer of Jack Seltzer Golf Academy (1988), PGA Life Member John Traub of Berkley (1984) and PGA Life Member Randy Erskine of Rochester (1978).
Flint Golf Club dates to 1910 as a social club, and the course was opened in 1919. Park, a two-time British Open champion turned designer, fashioned a parkland golf course that has stayed true to its roots over the years. It can play as long as 6,671 yards at par 72. Somewhat unique to the Park design are five par-3 and five par 5 holes.
Flint Golf Club is hosting the Michigan PGA Professional Championship for the third consecutive year. It has been a regular host to Golf Association of Michigan tournaments over the years, including the 2001 Michigan Amateur Championship, and it has also hosted golf legends. Sam Snead set the course record in June 1963 shooting a 61.
Flint Golf Club’s staff is headed by General Manager Troy Stieve. Scott Brotebeck is the head PGA professional and the superintendent is Tim Tuohy.
Last year Houtteman, who at 58 remains one of the section’s top players, made a 12-foot birdie putt on the first sudden-death playoff hole to top Hebert and with the 97th edition of the state championship.
Houtteman, who won the PGA for the first time and a Michigan Section major for the third time, shot a closing 3-under 69 with a birdie on the par 5 No. 18 hole, the same hole used in the playoff to finish with a 9-under 207 total. Hebert, an eight-time champion, shot 70 for his 207.
Host pro Brotebeck rallied with the low round of the day, a 5-under 67, to thrill the Flint Golf Club members and finish at 208, one shot out of the playoff.
Houtteman and Hebert actually finished one shot behind Cook, who shot 69 for 10-under 206, but he wasn’t eligible to win the section title under a Michigan PGA rule that requires 60 days of employment in the Michigan Section of the PGA prior to the major championship. This year that rule will not be a factor because Cook, a Grand Rapids native, has been working at Yankee Springs this golf season. He took advantage of his national qualification last year and finished in the top 20 at the 2019 PGA Professional Championship to earn a spot in the 2019 PGA Championship, which he played in earlier this summer.
The Michigan PGA Professional Championship dates to 1922 and past champions include Walter Hagen, Chuck Kocsis, Jimmy Demaret, Chick Harbert and Horton Smith.
The Michigan PGA Professional Championship is presented by Cadillac, Club Car and OMEGA with supporting sponsors Titleist/Footjoy, TaylorMade, Nike, Golf Channel and the PGA Tour.
See michiganpgagolf.com for more information, live scoring during the tournament and tee times. Gallery is welcome. Parking and admission are free. More information on Flint Golf Club is available at flintgolfclub.com.