Timothy Pontzer, ex-sports journalist, golf enthusiast, dies at 27; he'll be honored at Rocket

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Timothy Pontzer had a whole lot of jobs, in a whole lot of different industries. He produced sports-talk radio. He was a sportswriter for several local newspapers. He tutored high school kids. He worked in retirement financial planning. And, most recently, he was in marketing, with a heavy emphasis on golf, a recently rediscovered passion.

But while all the jobs were wildly different, his persona never changed: He brought boundless energy, enthusiasm and pride to each stop.

Timothy Pontzer with his dog, Remington.

"I can't remember who it was, but somebody told us when we started our companies that, 'You're not going to find employees who cared as much as you do, just remember that,'" said Kyle Bogenshutz, the co-owner of Royal Oak-based marketing firm Brand25 Media with fellow 97.1 The Ticket alum Mike Sullivan, who last year made Pontzer their first full-time hire.

"I've thought about that. Tim was so conscious of the brand, of the work, of the client, and cared so much.

"When he was passionate about something and wanted to pursue it, he was all-in."

Pontzer, of Auburn Hills, died Friday afternoon in an accident on southbound Interstate-75, at Adams Road. There were heavy rains. He was coming back from one client meeting and heading to another, for Brand25 Media. He was 27.

News of Pontzer's death hit hard in the local sports community, where Pontzer was very well known for his work, and for his fandom — particularly of Oakland University, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, and local soccer teams, notably Oakland County FC, which paid tribute and made him an honorary captain for Saturday's match.

Pontzer graduated from Oakland University in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in journalism, and worked as board operator and producer at 97.1 The Ticket from 2015-17 and a sports reporter for C&G Newspapers (Macomb Township Chronicle, Rochester Post, Shelby-Utica News and Troy Times) from 2016-18.

Oakland men's basketball coach Greg Kampe recently had run into Pontzer and his brother at a Blaze Pizza, and the two made plans to play golf in the coming weeks.

"One of our big fans," Kampe said. "I like many others are heartbroken," he later posted on Twitter.

Condolences also poured in, on social media and elsewhere, from 97.1 The Ticket's Mike Stone, local radio personality Dan Leach, former local radio host Jake Chapman, and PGA Tour golfer and fellow Oakland alumnus Brian Stuard, among dozens of others.

Tim Pontzer, right, with, from left, dad Jim, mom Susan and brother Noah.

Stuard, in this week's Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, plans to dedicate his opening tee shot to Pontzer, and will wear his initials on his hat throughout the tournament. The hat will read "TP7," the 7 being Pontzer's high school number, and the number of one of his favorite athletes, Ben Roethlisberger.

Pontzer, whose dad was in the military, moved around a lot as a kid, from Houston to suburban Cincinnati to, eventually, Auburn Hills. His Pittsburgh sports fandom is tied to his parents, who grew up in the area.

He attended Oakland Christian before attending Oakland University.

Pontzer got out of the sports business in 2018, and got into financial planning, before Bogenshutz and Sullivan left 97.1 to start their marketing firm. Their first hire was Pontzer, in November 2020. Sullivan had known him since their college days at Oakland University and working together at a Nike store; Bogenshutz worked with Pontzer on overnight shifts at 97.1. It was the perfect fit, as Pontzer jumped head-first into all aspects of the business.

"He was really hitting his stride," Sullivan said — so much so that Pontzer had recently come with an idea that was to become a new wing of the business, which was founded in 2019. "He'd totally just wanted to over-deliver.

"An extremely hard-working guy."

Golf held a particularly special place, especially recently. Like with many during COVID-19, Pontzer turned to golf — one activity folks were allowed to do, without restrictions, during the long shutdown. He played about 100 rounds last year alone, Bogenshutz said. Pontzer still fought a slice to the right, but was taking lessons. He had recently joined Boulder Pointe Golf Club in Oxford.

And he was so looking forward to the inaugural outing for Metro Detroit Golfers, which Bogenshutz and Sullivan founded, and for which Pontzer became equally passionate about as part of his job with Brand25. The outing, which was scheduled for Monday at Boulder Pointe and expected to draw more than 200 golfers, was canceled. MDG is an online golf community, started on Facebook, and now, through all platforms, has close to 50,000 members. Pontzer was a huge advocate; any time he'd see someone at a golf course wearing MDG gear, he'd go to his car and get them an MDG bag tag, poker chip or hat.

Tim Pontzer at an old-time baseball game.

Bogenshutz remembers Pontzer for being relentlessly upbeat — "Bogey" didn't like working overnights at 97.1 but always was much happier when he'd walk into the Southfield studios and see Pontzer was his producer — and was happy in life. Pontzer recently was looking at buying his first condo.

"He was just starting to really get his life and career and everything going," Bogenshutz said. "I thought he was gonna be with us for 25 years. He was one of the first guys that was in with us and truly helping us.

"It's so hard to trust people with your livelihood and business, clients. We trusted him implicitly."

Pontzer is survived by parents Jim and Susan and younger brother Noah, as well as his dog, Churchill.

A celebration of life is planned for 1 p.m. July 10 at the family's church, Calvary Chapel in Troy.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984