ACME – Brett White knows all about taking things one step at a time.
It’s how he handled therapy in coming back from a life-threatening brain infection three years ago, and it’s how he handled going wire-to-wire to win the $115,000 Turtle Creek Casino Michigan Open Championship Thursday at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.
The 27-year-old mini-tour professional from Caledonia shot a closing 3-under 69 on The Bear course for a 12-under total and a five-shot win in the 103rd edition of the state championship.
“When I was in the hospital I didn’t think this was possible, but when I got out I knew I wanted to be able to golf again,” he said after accepting the John D. Standish Trophy and $16,000 first-place check.
“I started with walking and as soon as I could walk I knew that I at least wanted to be able to golf again for my sanity. I love the game of golf. I’ve done it my whole life. Probably like eight or nine weeks after I was out I thought, OK, things are starting to come together physically enough to where maybe I can golf at a high level again. I was going to attack it just like I did this tournament, one step at a time, one day at a time and try to get better every day.”
White led each day of the Open, each round was under par, and then he hopped into a car to head to South Bend, Ind. He’s going to be on the bag early Friday morning for his sister Sarah, who won two weeks ago on the Symetra Tour with him as caddie and is playing in the Symetra tournament there this weekend.
“I’m going to be a good brother,” he said.
Alex Scott, a Traverse City mini-tour professional and former Grand Valley State All-American, made the local gallery happy with a final 70 for 7-under 281 and second place. The former bag attendant at the resort earned $11,000.
Chad Kurmel, a teaching professional at Forest Akers at Michigan State University, shot 76 for 4-under and tied for third with a former Spartan golfer, Donnie Trosper of Canton, who is now a professional and shot a closing 69.
Former Hope College All-American Josh Gibson of Grandville, who shot 71, defending champion Eric Lilleboe of Okemos, who shot 75, and Charles DeLong of DeWitt, a current Grand Valley golfer who shot 71, tied at 3-under 285. DeLong earned low amateur honors.
White proved to be a good frontrunner, winning a tournament for the first time in wire-to-wire fashion and for the first time since last November when he won the Nevada Open to fully signal his return from the rate diagnosis of viral encephalitis secondary to Epstein Barr Virus (mononucleosis) infection with complications of ataxia. His brain essentially was under attack by a virus and swelling.
Swelling is what he did to his lead Thursday with three consecutive birdies on holes 10, 11 and 12 after dropping a tee shot in the water on the peninsula par 3 No. 9 hole and making a double-bogey 5.
“I think I went from a three or four-shot lead to a one or two-shot lead there,” he said. “That hole is hard for me and with the wind today, I just hit a bad shot but that snapped me back into it. I feel good I was able to turn it around with the three birdies. Then I just held it together. The wind was tough, but I trusted my game and took it one shot at a time.”
Scott, 23, said he lost the tournament in the first two rounds.
“If you would have told me after the first two rounds I was going to finish second, I would have thought that is probably as good as I could do,” he said. “I thought for a while today I was actually back in it, but then he birdied 10, 11 and 12 and I just tried to go as low as I could and finish as high as I could.”
Scott said White had an incredible performance in the wind after a two-hour rain delay and has an incredible story.
“If people don’t know his story, they have to look it up,” he said. “For him to be doing what he is doing is incredible. Three years ago he had to learn how to walk again, and now he’s winning the Michigan Open against a great field. To win the Nevada Open and now the Michigan Open, that’s impressive. You can’t help but feel great for him.”
White said winning his home state Open was something he has wanted to do since he became a competitive golfer.
“This is my sixth or seventh one I’ve played in and winning one, especially one here at The Bear, means so much,” he said. “I see the Michigan legends, their names on that plaque and now I’m part of that fraternity. That’s great.”
White noted that his big check was welcome, too.
“Turtle Creek stepped up and basically doubled the purse, which I think elevates the championship,” he said. “A lot of people want to win the Michigan Open, but to have this kind of purse really got a lot of people excited, especially here at a great venue against the great talent in Michigan. It means that much more.”
ABOUT GRAND TRAVERSE RESORT & CASINOS: Owned and operated by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Resort & Casinos offers world-class gaming, golf, dining, and spa amenities in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The premier properties include Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, and Leelanau Sands Casino & Lodge, along with EDC ventures Turtle Creek Market, Eagletown Market, and more. For more information, visit www.gtbindians.com, www.turtlecreekcasino.com, www.grandtraverseresort.com.