FRANKLIN – Franklin Hills Country Club and its classic Donald Ross-designed golf course will host the top Golf Association of Michigan male golfers for the historic 100th GAM Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland, Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 2-3.
Defending champion Jimmy Chestnut of Royal Oak, a two-time champion, returns to defend his title as part of a field 84 golfers playing 54 holes of stroke play over two days.
The Donald Ross-designed Franklin Hills course has been the site of the GAM member championship for men six previous times dating to 1931.
“It is a great golf course, always in stellar shape and it is definitely a top-10 course in Michigan and the golfers will enjoy it,” said Ken Hartmann, GAM director of competitions and USGA services. “It’s a treat to play there for the 100th GAM Championship. The course is a classic and the conditioning is championship caliber day-in and day-out.”
The GAM Championship started in 1919 when the GAM was formed but was not played in 1942-44 because of World War II.
Franklin Hills has hosted several GAM and USGA qualifiers in recent years. Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member and two-time champion John Morgan won the 1983 GAM Championship at Franklin Hills, the last time the championship was hosted by the club. Chris Brinke, a four-time GAM champion, won his second title in 1931 at Franklin Hills, the first time the club hosted.
“It’s a perfect place for the 100th,” Hartmann said. “The GAM appreciates the opportunity to share some history with the club.”
Jeff Ferry, the head golf professional at Franklin for 17 years, said some members of Franklin Hills are expected to compete in the championship.
“The membership is proud of the course and they will be proud to show it off and be part of the centennial year of the championship,” he said. “We have had a great relationship with the GAM and our course is a classic Ross, not overly long but in previous GAM and USGA qualifiers the course always defends itself with the green complexes and of course the routing.”
Ferry said a fair number of players in the field will have played the course at least in qualifiers.
“For those who haven’t, it will be a nice adventure for them,” he said.
Brian Schweihofer, the superintendent at Franklin Hills, said the course will present conditions similar to the day-to-day operation with the GAM officials picking hole and tee locations.
The club had architect Ron Pritchard do a major renovation in keeping with original Ross design elements in 2003, and last year architect Andrew Green of Maryland toned down the slope of the No. 2 green to provide more hole locations. Green is also doing a master plan for the club.
The course, which opened in 1927, plays to a maximum of 6,923 yards with a 73.7 course rating and a slope rating of 134. It is regarded consistently as one of Michigan’s finest golf courses as well as one of the top Ross designs in the country.
“It is typical of Ross courses in that you have options to get the ball in the green, including running it up between bunkers, and the real trouble is when you go over the green,” Hartmann said. “You have to hit your irons well and have a strong short game at Franklin Hills. It will determine a deserving champion.”
The GAM Championship, like Franklin Hills, has a rich history. Past winners include Michigan golf legends like James Standish, Chuck Kocsis, Bud Stevens, Glenn Johnson, and Pete Green.
This year’s field of golfers includes six past champions, including Chestnut (2008, 2020), two-time winner Mitchell White of Muskegon (2015, 2019), 2018 champion James Piot of Canton, 2014 champion Ryan Johnson of New Boston, 2013 champion Scott Strickland of Bloomfield Hills and 1996 champion Randy Lewis of Alma.
Other notables in the field include recent Michigan Amateur Champion Patrick Sullivan of Grosse Pointe, recent Michigan Open Champion Bradley Smithson of Grand Rapids, 2020 Michigan Amateur champion Tyler Copp of Ann Arbor and 2020 GAM Mid-Amateur champion Mike Anderson of Northville.
The field will play two rounds on Monday and a closing round on Tuesday after a 36-hole cut Monday night to the low 30 scorers and ties.
The GAM Championship traditionally boasts as strong of a field as the Michigan Amateur Championship, in large part because non-exempt players must go through sectional qualifiers to earn a spot in the final field for the championship.
Last year at Western Golf & Country Club, Chestnut won his second GAM Championship 12 years after his first. He shot a final 3-under 69 for a final 7-under total and topped Copp by one shot. Piot finished third at 5-under.