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Andrew Walker Sets Record, Earns Top Seed at Michigan Amateur Championship
Written By: greg.johnson@emailgam.org

  GROSSE POINTE FARMS – Andrew Walker had no idea he was setting a 36-hole stroke play qualifying scoring record or that he would be getting a crash course on the history of six-time Michigan Amateur champion Chuck Kocsis.

  “It’s pretty amazing I set a record, and I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished the last two days,” said the 19-year-old Michigan State University golfer from Battle Creek who received the Chuck Kocsis Medalist Trophy Wednesday at the 107th Michigan Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland.

   “It means a lot to me. It was a big goal of mine to perform well this week and being the low man in stroke play is something I’m proud I accomplished. It will give me confidence through the rest of the week.”

  Walker shot a 5-under 66 in the second round of stroke play qualifying at Country Club of Detroit for a two-day record-setting total of 11-under 131, medalist honors and the No. 1 seed in the 64-golfer bracket for match play.

  He was six shots clear of the second-place finisher Dan Ellis, who shot 68 for 5-under 137 and is also one of his golf coaches at Michigan State.

  The cut to the low 64 golfers for match play fell at 150 where nine golfers played off for the final four spots in the field.

  The No. 64 spot went to 2008 Michigan Amateur champion and former Spartan Jimmy Chestnut of Royal Oak, who will meet Walker in the first match Thursday morning at 7:15 a.m. Winners in the morning move on to the round of 32 in the afternoon to determine a “Sweet 16.”

  Walker’s 131 showing in the first two days eclipsed the previous 36-hole stroke play score of 10-under 132 set by Joe Juszczyk of Dearborn Heights in 2009 at Spring Meadows Country Club in Linden. His second-round 66 featured a bogey-free 32 on the back nine with birdies on three of the last four holes.

  The first of those birdies, at the short par 4 No. 15 (360 yards), featured what he called his shot of the day. From the front side of a fairway bunker he hit an 89-yard wedge shot to 10-feet above the hole and made the birdie putt.

  “I had a big lip in front of me, it looked tough and it was tough, but I pulled it off and that was big for me,” he said. “Coming into the final stretch and being able to hit that shot after an errant tee shot set up a good finish. I hit some good shots today, but my putter was great again. I feel like my game has really started coming together and it is the putter that is making it happen.”

  Walker, whose glossy junior golf resume includes qualifying for the starting field in the U.S. Amateur at age 14, being an AJGA All-American and twice a GAM Junior Golfer of the Year, said he hasn’t played a lot of match play and has never been the top seed.

  “Match play is a completely different monster, I know that,” he said. “I will try to detach myself from my score. As much as I already do that, you really have to do it in match play. Everything starts even again.”

  Ellis, an assistant to Casey Lubahn at Michigan State, said it was great to see Walker have success through the first two days.

  “He has put the work in,” he said. “He’s smiling and he deserves it because he’s earned it.”

   Ellis said the next three days of match play turn the tournament into a marathon.

   “I hope my body is ready for it,” he said. “Maybe I will get to see Andrew (in a match) in the next few days. It’s great to get into match play. It gets physical now and is a real-deal state championship.”

   Ben Smith of Novi, a Georgia Tech golfer and the winner of the last two Michigan Junior Amateur championships, shot 70 for 139 and the third seed. Jake Kneen of White Lake, who last week won the Michigan Open Championship and is a recent Oakland University graduate, shot 70 for 141, as did Donnie Trosper of Canton, who is in the process of transferring from the University of Central Florida to Michigan State.

-Greg Johnson, greggie24@hotmail.com