FLINT – Caledonia’s Ben Cook, whose wife/caddie of five days Miah said prefers to be called Benny, made a 12-foot eagle-putt on the par 5 No. 18 hole to set a tournament scoring record and win by a record scoring margin in the 99th Michigan PGA Professional Championship Wednesday at Flint Golf Club.
The Yankee Springs Golf Course professional got married Saturday and then honeymoon-blitzed the field in the state championship for Michigan Section PGA professionals. The 26-year-old shot a final 7-under 65 for a 20-under tournament total and an eight-shot victory.
“Because I had a big lead I was just trying to keep moving forward and there were a couple of guys who played extremely well and potentially could have caught up if I had a couple mishaps,” Cook said. “I was playing solid, so I was seeing how many birdies I could make, and once I got to 18-under I was trying to get to 20. I didn’t know it was a record, but when that last putt went it I was really happy.”
John Seltzer of the Seltzer Golf School in Grand Rapids, the 2017 champion, shot a sizzling final-round 63 for 12-under 204 and took second place.
The 20-under total by Cook eclipsed the previous scoring record of 18-under, which was accomplished twice: In 2001 by winner Jeff Roth at Shanty Creek Resort playing The Legend and Cedar River courses, and in 2014 by winner Scott Hebert at Oakland University playing The Sharf and Katke-Cousins golf courses. The eight-shot scoring margin in victory bested a 6-under total Hebert set in his 2014 win.
“I don’t think anybody was going to beat Ben this week, 20-under that’s just unbelievable,” Seltzer said after his 63 that was also two shots short of the Flint GC course record 61 set years ago by legend Sam Snead.
“If I could have been seven or eight under the first two days and then play the way I played today, then maybe I could have made it interesting. But 20-under – that’s not an easy one to catch.”
Five-time winner and defending champion Jeff Roth of Boyne Golf Academy tied with Adam Schumacher of Point O’Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor at 9-under. Roth shot a closing 71, and Schumacher a 67.
Eight-time champion Scott Hebert of Traverse City Golf & Country Club and Josh Fryer of Franklin Hills Country Club each closed with 68s to finish at 8-under.
In addition to playing for a share of the $54,000 purse, the field was playing for a chance at national championship golf. The low nine scorers at the end of the tournament – not including Cook, Roth and Hebert who are already qualified – earned spots in the 2021 PGA Professional National Championship next April. The low 20 finishers from the national championship then move on to play with the best players in the world at next year’s PGA Championship next May.
The nine earning spots this year in the PGA Professional National Championship are Seltzer, Schumacher, Fryer, Chad Kurmel of Spartan Golf Academy in East Lansing, who shot 72 for 7-under, Tim Pearce of Birmingham Country Club, who shot 71 for 5-under, Cody Haughton of Red Run in Royal Oak, who shot 68 for 3-under, Gary Lewandowski of Tullymore Golf Resort, who shot 70 for 3-under, Flint Golf Club’s own Scott Brotebeck, who shot 73 for 3-under, and Kyle Martin of Lochmoor in Grosse Pointe Woods, who shot 70 for 2-under and then won a playoff with Al Kuhn of The Fountains in Clarkston for the final spot. Kuhn, who shot 68 for 2-under, will be the first alternate.
Cook called his week unbelievable, starting with a wedding during a pandemic on Saturday, the Michigan Section PGA title, and a record-setting performance. He planned to play in the championship all along, and then honeymoon.
“I mean she’s stunning,” he said of Miah, a nurse from Bath near Lansing, “so it’s tough to have a bad day there, and really the game was on and it was just us out there having fun and seeing how low we could go. Her being there helped me. She is just starting to play golf, but she keeps me happy out there.”
Cook, a Caledonia native, has emerged on the golf scene since starting work on a career in competition with his college coach Mike Mignano at Ferris State University. During internship stops in the Professional Golf Management Program at Ferris he sought the advice of teaching professionals around the country, and he has worked on his game while working in Vero Beach, Fla., in the winters at John’s Island Club, and at Yankee Springs in the summer. Brandon Roby, a teaching professional at Cascade Hills Country Club in Grand Rapids, has become his current coach.
“I just kept working on my swing and improving,” said Cook, who has played in the last two PGA Championships, including a few weeks ago at Harding Park in San Francisco. “A tour career – that’s the goal. With no Q-School this year, I’m just going to keep working and keep playing in all the tournaments I can. It’s a crazy year, but this helps, winning here.”
Two years ago Cook won the tournament and first-place money at the Michigan PGA Professional Championship, but under Michigan PGA Section rules had not been working in the section long enough to be declared its champion. Lee Houtteman, who finished second in the scoring, was named champion. Cook was allowed to play in the championship because it serves as a qualifier for the national PGA Professional Championship.
This year he is officially the section champion, already qualified for the national championship, takes home the first-place money of $7,000, and has his name inscribed on the Gilbert A. Currie Trophy.
“I understood what happened, it was a rule,” he said. “The experience, the money, getting into the (PGA Professional Championship), that’s what I was playing for then and this year was another great experience. It all feels awesome right now and I get my name on that trophy.”
SCORING: A link for tournament scoring – Click HERE