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Tom Werkmeister, GAM player of the decade, doesn't have any regrets about turning pro

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Tom Werkmeister wasn't sure how things would shake out, given he gave up his legendary amateur golf career for a shot at the pros.

The Golf Association of Michigan gave him the good news anyway, earlier this week.

He is the GAM's player of the decade.

Tom Werkmeister

"I wasn't sure if they would still recognize me, or if I qualified," Werkmeister said. "I was very happy and surprised.

"I didn't see it coming. I thought that was something they announced at the beginning of the year in January, so I kind of forgot about it when they called."

In the last decade, Werkmeister, a Detroit native who now lives in west Michigan, was a five-time GAM player of the year, won the 2017 Michigan Amateur (his second overall), the 2016 GAM Championship, four (of his six) GAM Mid-Amateur Championships and the 2013 Michigan Open.

Werkmeister was the first amateur to win the Michigan Open in nearly four decades.

He also led Team Michigan to the 2016 USGA State Team Championship, where he was co-medalist.

Asked which event he was most proud of, he has a tough time answering.

"Oh, I don't know," Werkmeister said. "It's tough to choose between those."

In 2018, Werkmeister, who grew up in Warren and now lives in Grandville, decided to trade in his amateur status for a shot on the 50-and-older Champions Tour.

He said if he hadn't, he'd always live with the question: Could he have made it?

In two seasons, Werkmeister, 52, has qualified for seven tournaments, with a best finish being a tie for 38th. He hasn't made much money, nor has he secured full-time status yet.

But he has no regrets.

The experience has allowed him and wife Leslie to travel parts of North America they've never seen before, including new personal favorites like the Pacific Northwest and western Canada. Werkmeister also has met a number of pretty cool people, even playing with such major winners as Bernard Langer, Vijay Singh, Tom Kite and Corey Pavin. He's been asked for his autograph, for crying out loud. That's pretty cool.

"Yeah, I totally made the right choice," Werkmeister said. "That doesn't mean I'm necessarily happy the way it has gone thus far, I haven't felt like I played that well. However, I've had some really incredible experiences.

"For that reason alone, it's well worth it. Hopefully I have many more years and opportunities to see what happens."

Right now, of course, there are no opportunities, with sports pretty much shut down across the globe. The Champions Tour has canceled or postponed tournaments through mid-May, including earlier this week the cancellation of the Senior PGA Championship, which was scheduled to be played in Benton Harbor next month. The U.S. Senior Open could be affected, too, given it relies on May qualifiers to fill out its field.

Werkmeister is trying to keep his game fresh, as best he can, at a local course — though with precautions, like no taking the flag sticks out, etc.

Despite Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order that shut down non-essential businesses, some golf courses have allowed play with limited infrastructure.

"It seems to be pretty safe, what we're doing," Werkmeister said.

Christine Meier, 28, of Rochester Hills was named GAM's female player of the decade, while Randy Lewis, 62, of Alma, and Julie Massa, 56, of Holt, were named the GAM's senior players of the decade.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984