Golf legend Jack Nicklaus used Memorial Day to announce his latest venture into Michigan golf.
Next Memorial Day, the historic Grand Haven Golf Club will re-open as the renamed American Dunes Golf Club, and serve as a tribute to the armed forces.
Nicklaus' design firm will undertake the complete redesign of the course, which first opened in 1965 and was designed by Michigan architects Bruce and Jerry Matthews. John Rooney bought the course in 1998; Rooney's son, Dan, was a fighter pilot who served three combat missions in Iraq, and who later became a PGA professional.
Dan Rooney founded Folds of Honor, which provides scholarships for veterans or family members of veterans killed or injured in combat.
“I love the game of golf,” Nicklaus said, “but I love my country even more.”
Nicklaus and John Rooney first discussed the project last year, on the patio of Nicklaus' The Bear Club in Jupiter, Fla.
Dan Rooney, who founded Folds of Honor in 2017, said in a statement: “American Dunes represents a collaboration of countless like-minded patriots, who want this golf course to forever stand as a tribute to the men and women of our military, a safe haven for veterans who find rehabilitation through the recreation of the game, and a backdrop to celebrate our country and those who fought for its freedom. To fund the construction of American Dunes there are 18 individual hole sponsors and a small group of investors. This group of Patriots is allowing our dream to take flight. American Dunes will proudly stand as a vessel to raise awareness and donations for Folds of Honor, while recognizing the legacy of Barbara and Jack’s contributions to our military.”
Nicklaus also offered design services for American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Tacoma, Wash., among many other projects involving the military.
The club in Grand Haven, on the coast of Lake Michigan, will mark Nicklaus' fifth design in Michigan, along with Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort in Acme, Wabeek in Bloomfield Township, and TPC of Michigan in Dearborn. Nicklaus has designed more than 400 courses worldwide.
Nicklaus' goal in the redesign is to more incorporate the dunes, allowing the elements off of Lake Michigan to come into play, while preserving as many trees as possible.
"If we can do that," said Nicklaus, "and at the same time honor our military and raise money for the education of the families of our fallen soldiers, this is going to be something very unique and very special in the game of golf."
Nicklaus, 79, long has had an affinity for golf in Michigan, having won the 1990 Senior Players at Dearborn Country Club and the 1991 Senior U.S. Open at Oakland Hills Country Club.
Nicklaus also will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Golf Association of Michigan, with a June appearance at a VIP event at Oakland Hills.
This week, Nicklaus is hosting his annual PGA Tour tournament, The Memorial, in Dublin, Ohio.
Werkmeister makes Senior Open
Grandville golf professional Tom Werkmeister, in his second season trying to make a go of things on the Champions Tour, has qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, set for late June at Warren Golf Course in Notre Dame, Ind.
Werkmeister, 51, was medalist at the qualifier at Battle Creek Country Club on May 13. He shot a 69 to win by one.
Werkmeister, last year, traded in a storied amateur career to take a shot at the pros, and had some struggles in the early week qualifiers, making just four tournaments on the Champions Tour, the 50-and-older circuit. He made just $29,658.
He hasn't played any Champions Tour events this year, so the major will be his first.
South Lyon's Frank McAuliffe and Clarkston's Mark Eriksen shot 72 and 73, respectively, at the Battle Creek qualifier and are alternates for the U.S. Senior Open.
The U.S. Senior Open takes place June 27-30, the same four days as the PGA Tour's Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. That's bad timing for Werkmeister and Lake Orion's Tom Gillis, who could've been in line for sponsor's exemptions into the PGA Tour tournament at Detroit Golf Club.
Qualifying for the U.S. Open, set for June 13-16 at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California, concludes next Monday, with the final 10 qualifiers.