Getting Ready to Golf

Thanks to Greg Johnson for helping us get ready for the 2010 Pure Michigan golf season!

The 22nd West Michigan Golf Show Feb. 12-14 opened with a line of golf enthusiasts wanting the free golf balls that annually go to the first 100 people through the doors of the DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. And the people kept coming, and coming long after the golf balls were gone.

Golf has been taking the hits from the economy like everything else, but the industry is surviving across the state. The golf show is the first of the handful of such shows in the next few months across Michigan. As we continue to wait for spring and golf season, the show offered the usual collection of interesting things and latest information regarding Michigan golf.

For instance:

Remember the King's Challenge course up in Cedar that the Arnold Palmer Co. designed? A group led by Bob Kuras, president of The Homestead resort, purchased King's Challenge last year. Major restoration work and improvements have been implemented. It will open this year as the Manitou Passage Golf Club. The Homestead is a jewel of Northern Michigan and just minutes from Traverse City. The Manitou Passage plans to be a major destination for golfers who visit or live in that area, too. The Palmer Co. built a winner in the first place several years ago. Now it's had a facelift and is being managed by people who are experts at welcoming folks to the finest golf experience Northern Michigan has to offer.

Scott Hebert, the six-time Michigan Open champion, was in the house, or den in this case. He's the head golf professional at Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme, and he was asking people to give testimonials on film regarding "The Bear," one Michigan's most famous golf courses. See, the Bear is 25 years old this summer. Amazing. It doesn't seem like 25 years since then-owner Paul Nine had Jack Nicklaus build the beast that has always been a Michigan must-play destination. Grand Traverse has events and special promotions tied to the anniversary through the upcoming golf season. Stop in and meet Hebert and "The Bear."

Treetops Resort in Gaylord was among the sponsors of the show, and in a perfect way. The Treetops Par 3 Contest included an actual par 3 golf hall erected inside the arena complete with green, bunkering, grass and even a water hazard. It was a short half wedge shot of about 65 yards or so, and popular as always. Treetops was a fitting sponsor for the contest, which also benefited charity. Treetops North is home to the Rick Smith-designed par 3 course called ThreeTops. It's a par 3 course golfers have to play to believe. It combines beauty, course design, fun and challenge.

Resort news was everywhere. Garland Resort near Gaylord is under new ownership.  The new leadership is dedicated to remaining a major resort destination in Michigan. Various projects to match its product with its market are underway.

Egypt Valley Country Club near Grand Rapids, a private golf club, is hosting a very public event this summer -- the U.S. Junior Amateur. It's the first ever United States Golf Association national championship ever presented in Grand Rapids, and it's set for July 19-24. The club has launched its efforts, the Western Michigan Junior Golf Foundation was formed to fund and direct the event. Amway Corp, Foremost Insurance and Huntington Bank are among the early sponsors. Junior golf in West Michigan will also benefit from charity dollars raised. Volunteers are needed. Be a part of it. It will be incredible golf. You will not believe the talent levels. Also, the ticket prices are great. It's FREE to the gallery. Mark it on your calendars golf fans.

The Michigan PGA was represented in several ways by several members doing what they do best. Several of the golf professionals offered free golf lessons in a netted hitting area. Michigan has some major talent among its teaching golf professionals - consider national PGA Teacher of the Year Mike Bender.  Mike was a headline guest, and he works directly with four-time Michigan PGA Teacher of the Year Charley Vandenberg. Vandenberg, by the way, has one of the state's top teaching facilities at Thousand Oaks Golf Club in Grand Rapids. And Thousand Oaks is one of the state's top public golf venues. Rees Jones was the designer.

Start the 2010 golf season at the Michigan Golf Show, this weekend (March 5-7) at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi.

Greg Johnson has been writing about Michigan golf since 1982 primarily as the golf writer for The Grand Rapids Press and Booth Newspapers. He is a native of Three Rivers, grew up in St. Joseph, a graduate of Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor and Michigan State University in East Lansing. An award-winning writer, he has lived in Hudsonville for the last 20 years and worked in Grand Rapids for the last 27 years.