Rocket notes: Troy Merritt's cousin hopes to come up aces in Detroit, too

Tony Paul Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Detroit — Troy Merritt already has made a pretty impressive mark on Detroit. He made an ace at the tough par-3 11th hole at Detroit Golf Club in the third round of last year's Rocket Mortgage Classic, then made it into a playoff before falling to champion Cam Davis in an epic five-hole slugfest.

Now, Troy's cousin by marriage is aiming to put her own stamp on the city, just a few modest par 5s southwest of Palmer Park.

Kate Achter, Detroit Mercy's new head women's basketball coach, is the cousin of Courtney — "The best athlete in the family," Kate said — who married Troy in 2010. Kate was out walking Detroit Golf Club on Thursday afternoon, the first day of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Detroit Mercy women's basketball coach Kate Achter, right, with sister Jessica Achter, dad Roger Achter, and Troy Merritt's son, Scout.

"We're just chasing him around all day," said Achter, just off the 18th green, as Merritt was about to make the turn. "He loves the course. He always talks about it."

Achter, 35, was out walking with her dad and sister, as well as one of Merritt's sons, Scout.

They saw him make the turn at 3 under en route to a 4-under 68 on a windy afternoon, with a first nine (the back nine) that almost included another ace at the 12th. He hit it to 2 feet, 5 inches, and made the birdie putt.

Achter wasn't going to get to complete the round, as she was planning to leave early to pick up an out-of-state recruit from the airport. She's got a whole lot of work to do to rebuild a roster for a program that has won five games, total, the last three years, under three different head coaches.

You can understand why, when asked if she plays golf, Achter says: "Yeah, I used to be a really good golfer, and then I became a head coach. And now, I can't golf."

How little does she play?

More: Rocket Mortgage Classic live leaderboard

Let's put it this way: There's a Detroit Mercy golf outing coming up, and when the organizer asked her what kind of golf balls she played, she told him Titleist NXT.

Tis a good ball. Well, actually, twas a good ball.

"I don't think they make them anymore," Achter said. "I have like this stockpile."

This is Achter's first time seeing Merritt play in Detroit, but she's seen him play in person at Firestone in Ohio for the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational. Achter was head coach for six seasons at Loyola (Chicago), and before that she was an assistant at St. Bonaventure and Xavier. She was a star basketball player for Bowling Green.

Meanwhile, Merritt, 36, has played every Rocket Mortgage Classic, missing the cut the first year and finishing tied for eighth in 2020, before falling in the playoff in 2021.

Bye, Bubba

Bubba Watson, who played the first three Rockets, is missing this year, as he hasn't played since May, recovering from a torn meniscus.

Now, it looks like Watson is done in Detroit.

Multiple reports Wednesday said Watson, 43, a two-time Masters champion, is set to join the rival and controversial LIV tour, starting with the tournament in Boston in early September. Watson was tied to LIV earlier this year but quickly took to Twitter to deny it, laying out his schedule for the rest of the year — a schedule that included the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Of course, many PGA Tour pros denied interest in LIV, before joining, including 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic champion Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.

Watson took a liking to his time in Detroit, making fat donations to the tournament's charitable causes each year, and helping organize a made-for-TV exhibition at the 2020, no-fans event that raised more than $1 million for the charities.

Tough scoring

Detroit Golf Club was its usual, generous self early on Thursday as players on the course in the morning enjoyed conditions optimal for scoring. The course was soft from some recent rain and the wind was hardly blowing. Sixteen players finished at 5 under or better in the morning while 24 were at 4 under or better.

That all changed in the afternoon as the wind was gusting and the greens firmed up as the day progressed. Only five players shot 5 under or better while nine came in at 4 under or better.

Charley Hoffman, who got to 6-under before shooting 36 on his second nine, was happy to get in the clubhouse with a 5-under 67 when things were all said and done.

"With the way the wind blew, and what the scores are this afternoon," Hoffman said, "I'm pretty happy with that score."

The forecast says winds could gust again at times on Friday, but conditions should be perfect for low scores during the final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984

Twitter: @mattcharboneau