'This is their U.S. Open': Michigan Amateur starts Monday, without defending champ

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Bath Township — The defending champion will not be defending his championship.

But Patrick Sullivan, a recently graduated University of Michigan golfer who has turned pro, is here to tell you how special it is to hoist the Michigan Amateur trophy.

"It was always my favorite tournament," Sullivan said recently, before playing a round of golf at this year's host site, Hawk Hollow Golf Club just outside of Lansing. "It was definitely one of the best weeks of my golfing career.

"I'm kind of mad I can't play it this year."

Patrick Sullivan poses with the Staghorn Trophy.

Sullivan, 22, of Grosse Pointe, decided to pursue his professional career right after graduation rather than wait till after the 111th playing of the Michigan Amateur. He has some conditional status on PGA Tour Canada, and played the Michigan Open earlier this month as a pro, finishing tied for 33rd to collect a check.

And, so, someone new will take the crown in this week's Michigan Amateur, which starts with stroke play Monday and Tuesday, then match play Wednesday through Friday.

The 18-hole championship match is set for Friday afternoon; 156 players will start the tournament, out of more than 1,000 who attempted to qualify.

"It really is an endurance test," said Chris Whitten, executive director of the Golf Association of Michigan.

"To our players, this is their U.S. Open."

With Sullivan out of the picture, picking a favorite is a bit trickier, though some of the names to watch include: Michigan State's Bradley Smithson (Grand Rapids), the 2021 Michigan Open champion, and August Meekhof (Eastmanville); Wisconsin's Coalter Smith (Grosse Pointe Farms); Grand Valley State's Charlie DeLong (DeWitt); as well as Mike Anderson (Northville), Nate Clark (DeWitt), Anthony Sorentino (Rochester) and John Quigley (St. Clair). Eastern Michigan alum Tyler Raman (Otsego), who last to Sullivan in last year's championship match, also is in the field, as he has not turned pro.

They'll be facing an intriguing test in Hawk Hollow, with the first 18 holes being used for the tournament. Hawk Hollow took on the 2022 Michigan Amateur after Meadowbrook Country Club in Northville had to cancel because of renovations.

Hawk Hollow, a Jerry Matthews-designed gem that opened in 1996 (its sister course, Eagle Eye, opened across the street in 2003), is a shorter course than Meadowbrook. But it still can be set up to be quite challenging with lots of risk-reward decisions — a worthy test for the next Michigan Amateur champion.

Sullivan also made a 2019 run to the championship match, where he lost to Novi's Ben Smith at Oakland Hills Country Club, 2 and 1.

"It kind of fueled me more to get it done," said Sullivan, whose name will forever be etched on the Staghorn Trophy. "I just really appreciate this tournament so much."

Michigan Amateur

When: Monday through Friday

Where: Hawk Hollow Golf Club, Bath Township; 6,974 yards, par 72

Schedule: Stroke play, Monday-Tuesday; match play, Wednesday-Friday; championship match, 1 Friday

Defending champion: Patrick Sullivan (he won't compete, because he has turned pro)

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984