Golf: Tournament of Champions turns 20
Andy Matthews of Ada will attempt to defend his title next week in the 20th annual Tournament of Champions on The Alpine course at Boyne Mountain. Matthews surged past Henry Do (right) late in the final round to win the tournament title in 2010. Do, who was then just 15 years old, was vying to become the youngest T of C winner. Do is also scheduled to be in the 117-player field that kicks off the 54-hole stroke-play tournament on Monday, Aug. 1. (News-Review file photo)
Expect some more enchanting stories to unfold next week.
The Boyne Tournament of Champions celebrates it's 20th anniversary this year, as the three-day, 54-hole stroke-play event will be contested Monday-Wednesday, Aug. 1-3, on The Alpine at Boyne Mountain.
Once again, many past champions are in the field of 117 including inaugural winner Dan Olsen, 1998 champion John Dal Corobbo, '97 champ Tom Harding, '93 winner Mike Erickson, 2008 winner Scott Hebert of the Grand Traverse Resort, defending champion Andy Matthews, and four-time winner J.R. Roth..
The Tournament of Champions is the brainchild of Boyne Resorts' President of Eastern Operations, Stephen Kircher, and former Michigan Section PGA chief Ken Devine.
"I'm just really proud because it still seems new to me," Kircher said of the 20th anniversary of the tournament. "I can't believe that 20 years have gone by.
"For me, it comes with a great deal of pride. It was really revolutionary at the time. Now, it's just part of the game."
Kircher and Devine developed the idea of pitting the state's major event champions including professional and amateurs, men and women, juniors and seniors together for an at-the-time whooping $100,000 purse.
The initial Tournament of Champions was won by Dan Olsen of East Lansing, who's unforgettable finish of birdie-ace-birdie, jump started the event and even garnered video on ESPN.
"Back then, the economy was good and we started out with a $100,000 purse and you think about the purse back then, we were putting a lot of money where our mouths were," Kircher said. "That was the biggest purse in the state and the largest state purse in our history.
"That added quite an element to it."
Kircher said the initial concept was sketched out of a radical idea by both himself and Devine.
"To have all the players come together and all the various groups to support it and to ultimately get guys to support it was key," Kircher said. "It was so radical at the time and most of the work was getting all those separate entities to support it. The Michigan PGA was key and (Devine) was the driving force to getting it going because it was at the time out of the box."
The tournament has long had a Master's feel to it, with the champion becoming a lifelong member of the Country Club of Boyne and receiving a green sports jacket.
Unlike many tournaments where players have to qualify for the field, the majority of the T of C is full of exempt players, which allows them -- and families -- to plan for the week well in advance.
"For many people they know they're going to play in it and there's a lot of reunions," Kircher said. "The game is kind of like the glue that holds it all together."
Kircher said the two more memorable finishes was Olsen's in 1992, and last year's, when Henry Do of Ypsilanti -- who was just 15-years-old at the time, shot an Alpine-record 10-under 62 to take a 2-shot lead into the final round. Do three-putted each of the final three holes and finished runner-up to Matthews.
Do was seeking to become the first-ever amateur winner of the tournament. One female, Stacy (Snider) Olsen, won the T of C title in 2003, while two seniors have earned the title, Agim Bardha (1994) and Roth (2008).
"It was heartbreaking that Do wasn't able to bring it into the barn," Kircher said. "That finish was one for the ages."
Dan Turcott, the events professional at Boyne, said he's hoping this year's tournament can match that of a year ago.
"It was exciting and heartbreaking at the same time for (Do)," Turcott said. "He was the crowd favorite and he played so hard for 50 holes. I don't know if the weight of the situation got to him."
Like many past tournaments, Turcott said the goal is to have a solid representation of juniors, professionals and amateur in the final groupings.
"It's the most diverse field of any golf tournament I'm aware of," Turcott said. "We try to equalize the field by adjusting the course and when you get to that final day, you like to have all groups, female, male, amateur and seniors, to be included."