HARBOR SPRINGS – Tyler Copp of Ann Arbor had never won a golf tournament where they handed him a microphone and asked him to say a few words, but he handled a short thank you speech capably.
He also handled his golf especially well in winning the 109th Michigan Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland at Boyne Highlands Resort Friday.
Copp, a 22-year-old Mercer University (Ga.) golfer, toppled James Piot, the 21-year-old Michigan State University standout from Canton, 2 and 1, to win his first golf tournament since a high school regional in his senior year and first-year of competitive golf.
“This is very special,” said Copp, a former hockey player who was playing in just the second Michigan Amateur for which he had qualified.
“It’s the most important golf tournament that I’ve wanted to win, and it makes me want to just keep on winning bigger and bigger tournaments.”
Copp, who has a year remaining at Mercer, rolled into the final with a 7 and 5 morning semifinal win over a struggling Logan Price of Grand Blanc, a former Florida Gulf Coast golfer.
Meanwhile in the battle of Michigan State golfers, Piot turned back incoming freshman August Meekhof of Eastmanville 4 and 3.
“I had a few loose swings, but I felt pretty comfortable all day and didn’t feel too much heat,” Piot said after the final. “My 2-iron on both par 5s, I sent them into the trees and hazard and you just can’t do that. Other than that, I just didn’t make some putts and Tyler played well.”
The final match started with Copp making birdie to win the first hole and Piot winning the next two with birdies. Copp kept rolling, winning the fourth and seventh holes with birdies for a 1-up lead. He went 2-up on No. 8 when Piot made bogey, and 3-up on No. 11 when Piot bogeyed again.
Piot birdied No. 13 with an approach shot to two feet to pull within two, but the duo matched scores through the 17th to close.
Copp called his chip shot from about 50 yards left of the green and over a large greenside bunker at No. 14 to about 10 inches the defining moment of the match.
“That was huge up-and-down,” Copp said. “I probably have had better ones, but that was the most important one I’ve ever had. It was the biggest shot of the day. James had momentum there.”
Piot called it a great chip shot by Copp.
“I hit a good shot in there and barely missed that putt,” he said. “I did feel like I was gaining momentum, but he kept things going with that chip. I didn’t birdie those holes in the corner (10-11-12) and he played well down the stretch.”
Copp, who took a gap year between high school and college, was recruited to Mercer after the coaching staff saw a recruiting video. He has continued to improve and compete and said the match play format helped him.
“I think I thrive in match play instead of four days of stroke play,” he said. “We played, what, eight rounds of golf this week and I just tried to take it shot-by-shot, day-by-day to keep the end goal in mind. I like to get honed-in and not think about the what ifs. My mentality was good all week and I stayed mentally sharp and played well.”
He also figured he was taking on the favorite to win the tournament in Piot, who had been co-medalist of stroke play with MSU teammate Andrew Walker of Battle Creek. Copp also beat Walker 2 and 1 in the round of 16.
“Piot is such a good player and he had been just a freight train all week, and so I knew I had to play well and I knew I had to make a lot of birdies,” he said. “I’m not sure what to think yet, but I feel pretty good about it.”