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July 2, 2014

Local golfer finishes second in Michigan Amateur golf championship

By Christian Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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Troy resident and Royal Oak native Steve Anderson watches a shot during the Michigan Amateur golf championship June 20. In his first appearance since 2008, Anderson finished second in the tournament.

The original thought was Steve Anderson would go play the first two rounds of the 103rd Michigan Amateur golf championship at the Belvedere Country Club in Charlevoix Monday and Tuesday, miss the cut and then make the short drive to Glen Arbor to meet his family to finish out their summer vacation.

“My expectation was to play the first two rounds of stroke play; I’m not going to make the cut and then get out of there,” the Troy resident said.

Anderson hadn’t played in a Michigan Amateur since 2008, failing to qualify for the event each year since then. He was also heading to the event, which has two days of stroke play and then six rounds of match play to win the title in a three day span, feeling that his game needed some work.

Then a funny thing happened on the driving range just prior to the June 16-20 tournament. Anderson, who graduated from Royal Oak Kimball in 1990, made a few tweaks and walked away with some newfound confidence.

“Things kind of took off from there,” he said.
 

Nothing to lose

Anderson went on to finish 36th in the stroke play portion out of 156, giving him a spot in the match play field of 64.

He took on No. 29 seed Tyler LaSerra in the first round and edged him 1-up after trailing by 3 only 11 holes in.

He then beat No. 4 Evan Bowser 6 and 4; No. 52 seed Steve McKalko 3 and 2; No. 21 Francesco Ruffino 2 and 1; and finally No. 41 Otto Black in 19 holes to earn a spot in the championship against No. 6 Henry Do. 

“Match play is a lot different. The best golfer doesn’t always win. I was fortunate to hit some good shots at the right time,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s wins came against multiple current collegiate players. LaSerra was the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year at Wayne State University last year; Bowser plays for Oakland University; and Ruffino was the state’s Mr. Golf after his sophomore season at Birmingham Seaholm and currently plays for Michigan State University.

Anderson picked up the game seriously in the last “10 to 15 years” after a collegiate tennis career at Eastern Michigan University.

“I figured these guys have a little more pressure than I did. I was playing for fun,” Anderson said. “I was in a position where I couldn’t lose, because if I win a match, great, but if I lose, then I go back and see my kids and go on the vacation I was supposed to be on.”

Do was arguably the most decorated of all his opponents. He already has a list of tournament wins including the Michigan Junior Amateur, a Division 4 state championship, and he had just finished his freshman year at the University of North Carolina where he also won an event.

Extra holes

Anderson and Do stayed within reach of each other after the first nine holes, and Anderson eventually found himself with a one hole lead heading into No. 14.

“I basically shanked a 5-iron into the bunker and lost that hole. Then on No. 15, a hole I played pretty well all week, I topped a shot into the green and lost that one, too,” Anderson remembered.

The 41-year-old battled back, claiming birdies on No. 16 and 17 to go 1-up with one to play.

“I made a couple of nice putts to go up there,” Anderson said. “I knew it wasn’t over because Henry was hitting his driver very well on the back nine, and he did it again on 18. He stuck it to a foot to make birdie. He made a great shot — not much I could do about it.”

On the extra hole, Anderson missed his approach shot to the green, eventually leading to a par and a victory for Do in 19 holes.

“We had a great time out there. (Do) has a great attitude and he has a bright future ahead of him,” Anderson said.

Weekend getaway

With his second-place finish, Anderson is automatically in the field for next year’s Michigan Amateur, which he plans on playing.  “With the success I had this year, which was a pleasant surprise, who knows — maybe I won’t be so stubborn anymore and go take my first lesson,” the self-taught player said.

He’s already decided he won’t be planning his family vacation around the tournament.

“I finally got over to Glen Arbor Friday night,” Anderson said. “We had all day Saturday, home on Sunday and then Monday back to reality.”