Novi's Ben Smith, 19, takes home Michigan Amateur championship at Oakland Hills
Bloomfield Township — Novi's Ben Smith had a heck of a week.
He met golf legend Jack Nicklaus on Monday, was the medalist after two stroke-play rounds at Oakland Hills Country Club, and then he was crowned Michigan Amateur champion Saturday.
Smith, 19, who plays at Georgia Tech, beat Grosse Pointe's Patrick Sullivan, 2 and 1, in the championship match.
“Me and one of my buddies got to meet (Jack Nicklaus) on the putting green,” Smith said. “That was an amazing experience, meeting a great man. That was really awesome. I was definitely in a good mood to start the week. And then this. My dad (Dave Smith) has always wanted me to win a Michigan Amateur, and my (swing) coach (Dave VanLoozen, director of instruction at OHCC) works here and he won it in 1988.
“I look at it as a great stepping stone for the future. If you can win the Michigan Amateur, then you can go on to bigger things.”
Nicklaus was at Oakland Hills this week to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Golf Association of Michigan.
Smith got off to a hot start Saturday afternoon, with birdies on three of the first five holes, then won the sixth hole with a par.
But after the 15th hole, the match was all square after Smith made bogey.
Smith rebounded with pars on the 16th and 17th, and Sullivan made two bogeys, and that was the end of the match.
“All day long I wasn’t going to get upset with myself making pars,” Sullivan said. “With those birdies, Ben got the lead, but I kept making pars and he made some mistakes. Pars go a long way. I wish I did it at 16 and 17. I missed the green at 16 and hit a bad drive on 17 and had to hit a good shot just to get it up to the green.”
Smith won his morning semifinal match, 2 and 1, over Hartland's Beau Breault, the defending champion. Breault was a runner-up, champion and semifinalist in his last three Michigan Amateur appearances. The former Eastern Michigan golfer plans to turn professional this summer.
Sullivan, meanwhile, beat former Grosse Pointe South teammate Coalter Smith, 3 and 1, in his morning semifinal.